Seeds of excellence for Seattle Heart
Without much fanfare, Swedish Medical Center snagged $4 million from this year's penny-pinched Legislature — seed money for something called Seattle Heart.
It is a brilliant idea. It is the sort of idea this city needs, especially now that traditional industry is so hard-pressed.
The idea is for everyone involved here in heart research, cardiac surgery and advanced heart and vascular treatments to create an institute on the Providence Hospital campus. It would be something like the Cleveland Heart Institute or, closer to home, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. It would be a place to attract national grants, stage clinical trials, undertake applied research and attract top physicians. It would be a magnet for patients from all over the West Coast — and from Asia and even Russia.
Dr. Howard Lewis, who heads the existing Swedish Heart Institute, says that despite the fine work done in Seattle, a significant number of patients are flown out of the Northwest. Lewis sends his patients needing care in electrophysiology (the electric signals of the heart) to Cleveland and patients needing aortic surgery to Houston.
Swedish Medical Center's chief operating officer, Marcel Loh, says an institute could offer care here "so that nobody will want to leave Seattle." And so that more patients will want to come to Seattle — thereby giving this city a new medical — and economic — specialty.
The seed money for the first phase of Seattle Heart is $100 million, of which much would be from the federal government and equipment suppliers, and $30 million from people here. Seattle Heart already has $4 million in individual donations in advance of its capital campaign, which will come in the fall.
Swedish has kept its name off Seattle Heart and is not insisting on running it — indeed, if the vision comes true, Swedish will not run it. There will be many partners in a thing that will take on its own identity.
An international heart institute would be an asset for Seattle. It would be a special asset for our biotechnology and medical device companies, and probably spin off more such ventures.
It would be a place to learn, to begin careers and to develop them. And it would be a place to save lives.
Think again of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center: In 28 years it has grown to 2,500 employees and revenues of $250 million, of which 80 percent comes from out of state.
We have such an institute for cancer care; we don't have it for cardiac care. With some thought, cooperation and work — a lot of work — this city could have both.
Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company