Just as physicians care for the health of their patients each day, they also care about the health and well-being of the communities where they live and work. The physician community is well aware of the challenges facing our economy and is interested in partnering with other community organizations and leaders to see what can be done. One specific way physicians and other health care leaders have pitched in has been through the Blueprint for Regional Economic Growth and specifically its Health Care Cluster.
One clear recommendation from the blueprint’s Health Care Cluster has been to stimulate innovation in health care across our region. That is why the upcoming Health Care Innovation Summit is exciting and important. If we can learn how to build new industries and jobs upon the foundation of our robust health care system, then we also could create more prosperous, healthier and sustainable communities in the Wichita region. The physician community certainly is interested in being part of that outcome.
Health care is a tremendous driver of our region’s economy, employing about 75,000 people, bringing in more than $2.8 billion in wages and nearly $7 billion in revenue. As big as the numbers are, the economic potential could be even greater if we broaden our vision beyond one of doctors and hospitals and the nurses, technicians and other people who work for them.
With over a thousand physicians, two major critical care hospitals, the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita, Wichita State University’s Innovation Campus and an entrepreneurial tradition, our region certainly has many of the pieces in place to harness and encourage health-related innovation and development.
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Implantable medical devices and sensors could be invented using the wealth of composites and electronics knowledge we have here.
Planned for early summer, the Health Care Innovation Summit is being generously sponsored by the Kansas Health Foundation. It will look at how other communities across the country have leveraged their health care footprints to stimulate economic growth, what lessons they have learned and what approaches might apply best here. It will investigate areas where existing technologies and expertise could be brought together. Implantable medical devices and sensors, for example, could be invented using the wealth of composites and electronics knowledge we have here.
Most importantly, the summit will put entrepreneurs and others in the same room to talk and share ideas and critiques. Physicians are scientists and innovators at heart. Each day they pursue better methods and medicines to give patients the best care possible. Entrepreneurs, like doctors, are often so focused on what they do that they don’t have the chance to bounce their ideas off others and benefit from those interactions and networking. The summit will jump-start those conversations and collaborations.
“The collision of ideas and people are what these days are all about, and that’s how innovations happen,” said one of the organizers, Bob Litan, a Yale-educated economist and attorney who was vice president for research and policy for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City.
The collision of ideas and people are what these days are all about, and that’s how innovations happen.
Bob Litan, economist and attorney
Litan recently moved back to Wichita, where he continues to serve as a senior fellow for the Brookings Institution, contributes regularly to the Wall Street Journal’s “Think Tank” blog and is committed to helping re-energize Wichita’s rich entrepreneurial tradition. He’s been involved in the well-received 1 Million Cups program, which was developed by the Kauffman Foundation and recently began here. The Health Innovation Summit would provide a similar, health-care-focused forum.
“Health care is very pivotal to the future of Wichita and most cities,” Litan said. “We have to diversify the economy in the 21st century. Relatively speaking, aircraft is likely to become less important over time, and we need to fill the void and expand our footprint in other industries.
“Through the connections, hopefully we’ll find enough of a core group of people doing interesting things, and people will walk away at the end of the day and say, ‘Gee whiz, I had no idea how much was going on in Wichita.’ ”
Over the years, the Medical Society of Sedgwick County and the Kansas Health Foundation have been involved in many efforts to improve health here and in Kansas.
For the medical society, the summit is just the latest example of the commitment our physician members have to making our region a better place to live, work and play. Wichita is already a medical destination for patients, but with vision and work, the region could become a destination and incubator for medicine-related innovation and well-paying jobs.
That’s a healthy goal.
Estephan Zayat, M.D., is a gastroenterology specialist at Kansas Gastroenterology and president of the Medical Society of Sedgwick County.