ST. PETERSBURG — A downtown pediatric research center that will be built on land donated by the University of South Florida is aimed at ensuring top medical talent comes to this city and stays here.
The new wing of All Children’s Hospital will be built on 1.4 acres adjacent to an existing academic building at 601 Fourth St. S. where doctors and USF medical students already collaborate.
It will enhance the hospital’s mission of finding cures for children’s diseases, building on its partnership with the university and its affiliation with Maryland-based Johns Hopkins Medicine, says Bill Horton, All Children’s senior vice president of strategic business services.
The everyday mingling of academic researchers with medical students and practicing doctors makes a world of difference in the quality of care for patients. “In order to keep giving great clinical care, you’ve got to invest in great academics,” Horton said.
It also will create a strong medical research community that will attract more top students to do fellowship training here and encourage private research companies to expand, he said.
“Fellowship trainees end up residing where they train,” Horton said.
That was also the message delivered by Gov. Rick Scott during a December visit at All Children’s to announce $80 million in state budget money for medical residency training programs at hospitals across Florida.
The state donated the land for the new research institute to USF this spring, and the university, in turn, transferred the land to All Children’s.
Specific plans for the expansion aren’t set in stone, and there’s a long fundraising process ahead before breaking ground. But the focus likely will be in areas of neuroscience and childhood cancer, Horton said.
The property’s size allows for a multistory building with 40,000 square feet per floor, hospital officials say.
“We’ve got some substantial opportunity here to be able to have a fairly sizable commitment to both research and education,” Horton said.
For USF’s medical college, the new facility will enrich its long-term relationship with All Children’s, creating more avenues for everyone from undergraduates and postdoctoral fellows to get involved in cutting-edge medical research and practice.
“We are excited about the economic development and health care impact that this project will have in St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay region, especially for the youngest members of our community,” USF President Judy Genshaft said in a statement.
Over the long term, leaders at the hospital and university hope it will be an integral part of what the city has dubbed the “biomedical corridor” downtown.
The vision is for institutions like USF, All Children’s and Bayfront Medical Center to act as anchors for small companies focused on the intersection of medicine and technology.
A business incubator in downtown St. Petersburg focused on marine science, biotechnology and health care would help spin out innovations in the industry that would feed back into patient care at the hospital and grow the local economy.
“We’ll provide a vehicle to collaborate, to share and cooperate in projects, and to take advantage of each other’s expertise,” Horton said.