The view from the top
Date: April 1, 2012
Though Johns Hopkins Medicine executives had long been aware that many of the East Baltimore campus buildings were becoming outdated, the 2000 opening of the Harry & Jeannette Weinberg Building, home to Hopkins’ Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, made it perfectly clear.
At that point, says Edward Miller, dean and CEO of Hopkins Medicine, it was apparent that it was time to modernize Hopkins’ aging clinical facilities—a good number of which were built between the 1930s and the 1960s. Being able to practice state-of-the-art medicine in the 21st century would mean constructing new operating rooms and intensive care units, as well as providing patients with private rooms to increase their comfort and safety.
Most of all, Hopkins needed clinical buildings that matched the quality of the faculty and staff working in them. But overcoming apprehension about what would become a $1.1 billion undertaking, the biggest hospital project of its kind nationwide, required Miller to apply his skills of persuasion as a fundraiser.
“I remember people saying, Oh, you can only build a children’s hospital or only an adult tower, you can’t do both,” he says. “The finance guys were the first to say, No. You can’t do that. Then I said, Tell us what we need to do to build what we need to build. So they went away for six weeks and then said, We need $400 million from philanthropy. They laid out a framework and put it into a 10-year plan.”
Executing the plan came down to Miller. To meet the first year’s goal, he requested that all employees forgo pay raises. He received only six emailed responses, none of which were negative. What allowed the strategy to work, the dean says, was a shared sense of its importance and purpose, an attitude that has continued throughout the project.
“That says a lot about this organization,” he says. “Those buildings are really a monument to all of our employees buying into this thing.”
From there, the fundraising efforts continued, including clever ad campaigns and social gatherings with New York-area philanthropists. Despite a prolonged recession, Miller says the timing turned out to be perfect: “Philanthrophic donors came forward even when times were tough.” The state of Maryland gave $100 million. Large donations from the Bloomberg and Zayed families (see story, page 3) cemented the efforts.
Ronald R. Peterson, president of The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System and executive vice president of Johns Hopkins Medicine, says the planning and managing of the construction always focused on “creating a physical environment to raise the standard of care to the next level for our patients.
“The new buildings provide an opportunity to create an environment that is more patient- and family-centered,” he says, “and that’s not just giving lip service to that concept. We have many features that promote the concept, like all private rooms, which help with infection control, give families more privacy and give a family member a place to spend the night. We have better waiting areas and easier access to the entrance with two bridgeways from the parking garage. The new buildings also recognize that hospital patients today are sicker, so we have a higher ratio of intensive care rooms compared to routine acute beds.”
The buildings also offer staff “a functionally effective place in which to work,” Peterson says, boosting efficiency and morale.
Miller adds that the new clinical buildings, combined with the recently constructed medical education building and a second cancer research building, help achieve the goal of “a campus of modern buildings that truly supports and enhances our tripartite mission.”
Though the new buildings will be fully functional and occupied by the end of May, Miller says it’s no time to rest: “Our challenge is to find the best ways to ratchet up our performance and get the most out of these modern physical structures and technology resources that are the envy of other institutions. Johns Hopkins Medicine must prepare to be on the cutting edge of tomorrow’s biomedical revolution.”