Thanks to the multidisciplinary research and development efforts of the Gainesville medical community, area residents not only receive the highest quality care, but also benefit from investigative efforts to find new treatments and cures for debilitating diseases. A fulcrum of the region's health-care research and delivery is UFHealth. comprising the University of Florida’s six health science colleges and the UF Health Shands Hospital system. In 2015, the university opened the George T. Harrell, M.D., Medical Education Building, the new home of enriched curricula for medical students and physician assistant students in the UF College of Medicine. The new space allows students to learn in the active, small-group environments they’ll encounter as practicing physicians.
"Students also work to improve their communication skills to build and foster strong relationships with their future patients. The building reaffirms our core commitment to educating the next generation of patient-care providers," says Dr. David S. Guzick, senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health.
Guzick says the research teams at UF Health are committed to helping the university reach its ultimate goal of becoming a top 10 public research university. In U.S. News & World Report’s most recent annual rankings, the UF College of Medicine rose to No. 16 among medical schools at public institutions across the nation and is the highest-ranking medical school in Florida. Guzick cites Dr. Duane Mitchell and his team in the College of Medicine as an example of the university's research prowess.
In 2016, the team earned an award from the Clinical Research Forum for their work published in the journal Nature, which identifies a new intervention to treat brain tumors. Dr. Julie Johnson, dean of the UF College of Pharmacy, earned the Distinguished Scientist Award from the Southeastern Universities Research Association for exploring methods to make blood thinners safer for African American patients. And the UF Diabetes Institute combines several disciplines, including engineering, medicine, nursing, public health and food and agricultural sciences to work on the research, prevention and treatment of diabetes. The College of Medicine has seen the largest increase in funding from the National Institutes of Health in the past five years.
"By translating scientific discoveries into clinical care medicine – from bench to bedside – we continue to raise UF’s national profile," Guzick says.
The Gainesville area also boasts a number of charitable and nonprofit organizations that support medical research. The charity Tyler's Hope raises money toward developing a cure for dystonia, a neurological movement disorder that affects some 500,000 Americans, including founder Rick Staab's children.
"The kind of research we look at is the kind that is the greatest return on our investment," says Jacob Wychulis, cure master for Tyler’s Hope, "and what I mean by that is we that we fund high-risk but high-reward research not just good science but science targeted at finding the cure."
Wychulis says the Gainesville area was a natural fit for the charity because of the work already being done at UF. “One of first things we did when we started was acquire the number-one dystonia researcher in the world and bring him and his lab to UF. So what we did is we just said let's build our dream team and cure this," Wychulis says.
Another mainstay of the region's health-care network is North Florida Regional Medical Center, which offers a comprehensive menu of services, from women's health to cardiology and cancer care. The hospital’s affiliation with HCA, one of the nation’s largest health-care organizations, makes it possible to invest in advanced technology, such as the CyberKnife, the Hana Table and the da Vinci robotic surgical system, not typically available at a community hospital. In recent years, the health care system opened a cancer center, two new locations for Gainesville Family Physicians and a new location for Senior Healthcare Centers as well as a free-standing emergency department in west Gainesville.
"North Florida Regional Medical Center is Gainesville's community hospital,” says Pamela Rittenhouse, director of marketing for North Florida Regional Healthcare. “We are very aware that our success hinges on support from throughout our community, and we are grateful for that support."