Literally overnight, Chicago leapfrogged up the rankings of prominent medical research towns.
Within 24 hours, two teaching hospitals there announced plans to open huge new research facilities.
On April 20, Northwestern Memorial Hospital announced it is collaborating with Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., to build a $180 million medical research facility next door to the hospital in downtown Chicago.
The next day, Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center said it is building a $42 million research facility at its West Side location.
Sensitive to any criticism that they may be shortchanging patient-care services, both Northwestern and Rush are quick to point out that most of the money for the construction projects isn't coming out of hospital operations budgets.
Rush's project is largely being funded through the generosity of a Chicago businessman and his wife, hospital officials say.
"We didn't want to take income from the hospital," said Jack Bohlen, vice president for philanthropy and communications at Rush. "The only way we could afford to take this on was through 100% philanthropy."
Robert Cohn, founder of Continental Coffee Co. in Chicago, and his wife, Terri, are making an undisclosed "major gift" toward the research center. The building will be named after them.
The gift was part of a five-year capital campaign that raised $222 million for various hospital projects. The 156,000-square-foot project will allow the medical center to house all its research facilities in one building on the Rush campus. Center researchers will study everything from cancer and cardiovascular medicine to genetic biology.
Rush broke ground last month on the project, which should be completed in the spring of 2000.
At Northwestern, a $30 million investment from the hospital's foundation, the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Foundation, will pay for about 17% of the project's $180 million price tag. Northwestern University is paying the remaining $150 million from reserves of the university, its medical school and philanthropy.
"A lot of hospitals couldn't have built this, but we are fortunate to have a partner that understands the importance of research," said Harvey Colten, M.D., vice president for medicine at Northwestern University and dean of its medical school.
Construction of Northwestern's research facility will begin about a year from now, when its new $580 million hospital complex is completed.