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The Texas Medical Center employs 93,500 people who work on more than 1,000 acres, and it supports its own energy company and a volunteer orchestra.
The Texas Medical Center employs 93,500 people who work on more than 1,000 acres, and it supports its own energy company and a volunteer orchestra.

Healthcare Market Profile: Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown

A Texas standout: ‘It's an icon': Medical center is the world's largest

By Paul Barr
Posted: July 25, 2011 - 12:01 am ET

With 14 hospitals, six nursing schools and three medical schools, the Texas Medical Center leaves a large footprint in the Houston healthcare market.

Officially chartered in 1945, the Texas Medical Center is a conglomeration of healthcare providers, researchers, educators, students and support staff that aims to offer people from all walks of life access to the best healthcare anywhere.

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In the process of trying to do that, the medical center has become the world's largest, employing 93,500 people who work in

33.8 million square feet of patient care, education and research space on more than 1,000 acres. The center even supports its own

energy company and a volunteer orchestra.

“Nothing in the world is close to the size of the Texas Medical Center,” says Richard Wainerdi, president, CEO and chief operating officer of the center. There may be cities with comparable healthcare operations spread out across the region, but the Texas Medical Center's centralized structure creates opportunities for cooperation and collaboration that are difficult to replicate, says Wainerdi, who has been president for 27 years.

The Texas Medical Center's first member was the predecessor to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, a hospital created in part with money from the M.D. Anderson Foundation, which in turn was a financial legacy of Monroe Dunaway Anderson, a banker and cotton trader. Other hospitals that joined the center during the 1940s included Baylor College of Medicine, the hospital predecessor to Memorial Hermann Hospital-Texas Medical Center, and St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital. The center is about two miles southwest of downtown Houston.

An executive for longtime Texas Medical Center member Methodist Health System, which became a member in 1950, agrees that the center stands out. “It's an icon. There's nothing like this in the world,” says Ron Girotto, president and CEO, who is retiring at the end of the year. He says it's not unusual for nationally known researchers to be working with multiple organizations within the center and with one another.

He pointed to Stephen Wong, a bioengineering and medical informatics researcher who takes on multiple roles at Methodist and Methodist-affiliated organizations, as well as at other Texas Medical Center members. Wong's TMC-member appointments include work as an adjunct professor in the School of Medical Bioinformatics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, as an adjunct professor at Rice University and as a faculty member for the Baylor College of Medicine in the Structural and Computational Biology & Molecular Biophysics Graduate Program.

“When you aggregate all of these medical assets … you get all this cross-pollinization,” Girotto says.

But being in such close proximity does not mean all members get along famously. Two famous surgeons in the complex—Dr. Michael DeBakey and Dr. Denton Cooley—feuded in the 1960s, and reportedly resolved that dispute in 2007, just months before DeBakey died in July 2008. And Methodist Health and Baylor College of Medicine had an extended and public spat after the two ended a partnership in 2004. Their dispute was settled in 2005 with assistance from the Texas attorney general. The Texas Medical Center management tries to mediate such disputes, but they are rare and participating organizations are like a family, Wainerdi says.

The center also is known for its expertise outside of medicine. The center recently was touted by the Energy Department for its electricity company's reworked 48-megawatt combined heat and power system, which is expected to save $200 million over 15 years. The company, called Thermal Energy Corp., recently completed a $377 million plant project, according to the Energy Department.

Meanwhile, the Texas Medical Center Orchestra, composed primarily of physicians, dentists, nurses, medical students, scientists and other allied health professionals, capped its 2010-2011 season in May with a celebration of Rome that featured three touring singers. The orchestra's mission is “to provide a fellowship in both music and medicine for its members, to contribute culturally to the community and to help raise funds for medical and other local charities through its concerts,” according to the orchestra's website.

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