By Robert Hadley
Northern Kentucky is experiencing a number of advancements in the medical industry, with the locally based St. Elizabeth Healthcare provider system emerging as a major leader.
The Northern Kentucky region is well situated adjacent to multiple higher education and commerce assets, both factors needed to drive population growth and support medical advancement and investment. Northern Kentucky University, University of Cincinnati and University of Kentucky are all within a 75-mile radius of Covington, a city of 41,000 that serves as the unofficial capital of Northern Kentucky.
St. Elizabeth Healthcare has 115 facilities in Northern Kentucky with six hospitals facilities, including near Covington, Fort Thomas and Edgewood. It scored high rankings in the specialties of geriatrics and pulmonology by U.S. News & World Report, and was distinguished as “high performing” by the magazine in eight categories, including surgeries to treat heart failure, and colon and lung cancer.
Big news involving St. Elizabeth is the regional medical campus it is building with Northern Kentucky University and the University of Kentucky. St. Elizabeth CEO Garren Colvin blamed the shortage of doctors in the commonwealth on the limited capacity for medical students at area universities, something its new scholarship program and a new campus are designed to rectify.
“Our investment in the scholarship fund is to make sure we can recruit the best and brightest students to our regional campus,” Colvin said. “Our investment will also provide assistance for any economically challenged students.”
The healthcare leader in Northern Kentucky, St. Elizabeth Healthcare has been featured in The Lane Report headlines a number of times over the past two years for scholarships and philanthropy, as well as its alignment with the nationally recognized Mayo Clinic for access to the best practices in the world.
The first fruits of a collaboration announced in February 2017 between St. Elizabeth, Northern Kentucky University and the University of Kentucky is a $2.5 million endowment to fund a scholarship program at UK’s Northern Kentucky campus, slated to open in 2019. The scholarship will support full-time students at the new campus seeking an M.D. degree and who remain in good academic standing.
Colvin said in a Lane Report article the scholarship represented “an enormous investment in the future of the health of our community. With our partnership with the University of Kentucky, we will be able to provide additional benefits to both organizations as well as the region and commonwealth by directly assisting in medical school support and recruitment for the Northern Kentucky campus.”
Producing more physicians could help address the state’s health crisis, where lung cancer, heart disease, diabetes and stroke rank the state in the top 10 nationally.
Five years ago, St. Elizabeth earned a seat among on the Mayo Clinic’s network of facilities, the first and only healthcare system in the tri-state area so honored. This arrangement lets doctors treating patients at St. Elizabeth access knowledge from experts in the medical field and is a prestigious partnership.
Since then, St. Elizabeth has undertaken other partnership projects. Plans are well underway for a new, $40 million facility, the Northern Kentucky Behavioral Health Hospital, a 197-bed treatment center for psychiatric care and substance abuse. This achievement, in partnership with Sun Behavioral Health of New Jersey, adds an additional competency to the cancer and heart and vascular specialties it has recently developed. Colvin said the collaboration was “at the core of our mission.”
“Mental health issues was the number one community need identified in our most recent community health needs assessment,” Colvin said. “Our partnership will address the current unmet need in our community.”
Access to a healthy future
The St. Elizabeth system traces its origins to Civil War times and has innovated steadily. All signs point to St. Elizabeth being poised for greater growth. In May 2016, it created a new position, vice president for marketing leadership. Matthew Hollenkamp, an MBA executive with two decades of experience in sports and consumer products branding and promotion, is the first to fill the position.
In keeping with its stated mission of making Northern Kentucky healthier, which requires access to care, in 2016 St. Elizabeth gifted Healthy Living Center in Burlington with $1 million in collaboration with the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati. Colvin characterizes the gift, which adds physical therapy treatments at the YMCA, as an investment in the region’s future.
“The partnership is a further extension of bringing services directly to our community,” he said. “Partnerships such as this will help achieve our goal of making Northern Kentucky one of the healthiest communities in the country.”
Two of the large healthcare systems based in Cincinnati have doctors’ offices in Northern Kentucky but don’t operate hospitals south of the river. University of Cincinnati Health Physicians has an office in Florence, and Christ Hospital has an outpatient center in Fort Wright.
Smoking, obesity and a lack of exercise were cited as primary factors in the state’s low ranking in several studies, but thanks to collaboration among the hospitals and initiatives from community organizations like the Northern Kentucky Regional Alliance, progress is occurring toward the shared mission of a healthier region.
For example, the NKY BUILD Grant Partnership is comprised of the Northern Kentucky Regional Alliance, St. Elizabeth Healthcare, the Northern Kentucky Health Department, Three Rivers District Health Department, and The Center for Great Neighborhoods. These organizations will work together, with guidance from national BUILD advisors, to identify and implement innovative solutions to community challenges. Matching funds from St. Elizabeth Healthcare, combined with BUILD’s two-year grant, will further extend the partnership’s capacity to help reduce smoking rates in Covington and Gallatin County.
ST. ELIZABETH HEALTHCARE
1 Medical Village Drive
Edgewood, KY 41017
St. Elizabeth Healthcare is one of the oldest, largest and most respected medical providers in the Greater Cincinnati region. For more than 150 years, St. Elizabeth has been the heart and soul of healthcare in Northern Kentucky. Founded with one small hospital in 1861, St. Elizabeth Healthcare now operates six facilities throughout Northern Kentucky – St. Elizabeth Covington, St. Elizabeth Edgewood, St. Elizabeth Falmouth, St. Elizabeth Florence, St. Elizabeth Ft. Thomas and St. Elizabeth Grant. St. Elizabeth Healthcare is sponsored by the Diocese of Covington and provided more than $100 million in uncompensated care and benefit to the community in 2016.
Our mission is to provide comprehensive and compassionate care that improves the health of the people we serve. We accomplish this through state-of the-art technology and our dedicated associates, led by a well-respected board and executive leadership team who love this organization and our community.
St. Elizabeth Healthcare also became the first healthcare system in Kentucky, Ohio or Indiana to pass Mayo Clinic’s rigorous review process and become a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, a collaboration that allows physicians from St. Elizabeth Healthcare to consult with Mayo Clinic physicians, providing even better care to our patients.