As reported by the Valley Press, October 21, 2010.

UConn Health Network Could Create Jobs Both In and Out of Medical Field

Could Also Bolster Clinical Care and Research for the Region

By Abigail Albair

As the UConn Health Center approaches its 50th anniversary, Dr. Cato Laurencin, dean of UConn Medical School and vice president for health affairs at the Health Center, told The Valley Press, "We think we've got a tremendous legacy for the past and future going forward."

In March, a plan was put forward by Gov. M. Jodi Rell to create jobs and bolster healthcare services, education and research in the northern part of the state. The plan, which garnered support for area hospitals, was approved by the General Assembly and, subsequently, the legislation for it was signed into law by the governor in June.

According to the UConn Health Center website, "The cornerstone of this plan is the renewal of the John Dempsey Hospital at UConn Health Center, which will be complemented by the creation of the far-reaching UConn Health Network, with specific health-related initiatives based at hospitals throughout the Hartford region."

Laurencin said that at this point, he feels the UConn Health Network is on its way to accomplishing the purposes for which it was created. "We will partner with other hospitals in the region on a number of things with the goal of uplifting the entire region in terms of clinical care and research," Laurencin said.

He added that the work force will, hopefully, also be positively impacted. "UConn is home to hundreds of residents [doctors in residency]. We are really the center point for building the state's work force of physicians. Forty percent of physicians practicing in the state went to UConn, so we believe we have value in terms of the work force."

Because part of the plan is the renewal of the John Dempsey Hospital, there will also be jobs outside the medical field that could be created.

"2100 construction jobs are being created because of the hospital renewal project. We are hoping that between that and the governor's plan of creating an advantageous environment for businesses to be able to locate in towns around the hospitals, this will result in even more jobs. Some data suggests that 6,800 new jobs will be created. UConn Health Center already generates $100 billion in gross product for the state, so we're hoping this will support the direct diffusion of dollars to the state through the health network," he explained.

As for the future of the Health Center, Laurencin said he is "very optimistic." Planning has begun for a new hospital tower, and Laurencin said on the clinical side, the Health Center has had great success with the cardiology program, among others, and has expanded the orthopedic surgery program. "We've recruited clinical scientists and are at the leading edge of clinical work and research," Laurencin said.

He added that the Health Center has also received a record amount of research grants.

"Our Health Center is financially doing a little better than break even for the first time in five or six years, which I think bodes well for the future," he said.

As for the immediate area that the Health Center serves, defined purely by its location in Farmington, Laurencin said, "We think that we are the hospital for the Farmington Valley, and we want to make sure that we are providing a very high level of care. We've had an expansion of our emergency department, which is staffed 24/7, so we can really provide the services people need."