UCSD’s Sulpizio cardiovascular center set for April opening
By Kathy Day
Now that the sneak peek at the UCSD Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center is behind them, the staff and faculty are focusing on the bigger event: opening for patients on April 3.
And that’s not a simple task, said the center’s director, Kirk Peterson, M.D., FACP, FACC, who is also professor of clinical cardiology and has been on the faculty since 1970.
Six years after Rich and Gaby Sulpizio pledged $10 million to help fund the center and more than two years after construction started, the big day means a lot of last-minute fine-tuning.
There are licensing and reliability issues to finalize at the four-story next to Thornton Hospital just east of Interstate 5 as well as assuring that all the new high-tech equipment and the basics are working. They have to make certain they’ve got all their personnel needs covered, including hiring new people.
And then comes the big one, he added: Transferring patients from UCSD’s medical center in Hillcrest as they centralize cardiovascular patient care and research facility. Petersen predicts the center, valued at $228 million when you factor in all of the equipment, will be 85 percent occupied on opening day.
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony — where Rich and Gaby Sulpizio were joined by their daughters and nine grandchildren — and gala evening Rich Sulpizio said he’s excited to see all the effort coming together.
“I’m honored and pleased to be a part of it, but many, many people made it happen,” he said. “It’s value to the community is that it is one all-encompassing facility that can handle all cardiovascular and clinical issues.’
“It’s a case of USCD following its “We Practice What We Teach” motto, he added.
For years, Sulpizio, who is president and CEO of Qualcomm Enterprise Services, said his own physicians have been UCSD doctors. He sees them twice a year in part because of his family history.
His father died at 54 and his brother at 48. Acknowledging both had lifestyles that may have contributed to their poor health, he said, still “there’s no reason for someone to leave at 54.”
His mother-in-law also has “some cardidovascular issues,” he noted in a press release about the center. “So, it was a no-brainer for us when we were asked to be involved with the cardiovascular center and if our lead gift helped and encouraged others to participate, that’s great.”
Expanding on Sulpizio’s “all-encompassing” phrase, Peterson explained the center is bringing together all the specialists that interact on a patient’s behalf. That doesn’t always happen now in a “concerted or optimized fashion” because they’re not all in the same facility, he added.
As a case in point, he talked about the patient who might have “unusually abnormal lipids (fats)” who would need the attention of an endocrinologist or metabolic specialist at another facility. Now it will be a specialist in the same building.
Another benefit for the area’s health care is that the new environment will maximize training opportunities for medical students and post grads, he noted.
Sulpizio added that benefit of being a cutting edge teaching hospital is that it is attracting “the best minds” and has been a boon for recruiting.
“That all translates to better health care for all of us,” he said.
Peterson also emphasized that he center also is striving “to create an environment where new scientific advances can be brought to the bedside. We want to breakdown the impediments and roadblocks and speed up that process.”
Part of that knew knowledge is likely to come from the Clinical and Translational Research Institute, which will be housed in a new facility across the street.
Peterson said he sees the mission being driven by the sense that “disease, although fully understood, is only half cured … There is always some new approach.”
While he said he could not address directly how the new center would affect healthcare costs locally over the long term, he believes in the short term improved “tertiary and preventative care will reduce costs.” That’s because there will be shorter stays and more outpatient care, towards which a lot of the new facility is oriented, he said.
But costs of technology and science are generally not factored into projections on costs and “they don’t come free, he acknowledged.
Peterson, who is also cardiology consultant for the Naval Regional Medical Center and the VA San Diego Healthcare System, said he was not integrally involved in the design of the center until the last few years. But he has watched with rapt attention as it developed over his years with UCSD.
Instead he gives credit to Anthony DeMaria, M.D. and Stuart Jamieson, M.D., who have been working on the concept since the early 1990s.
On the horizon, he said, is “significant interaction with other medical facilities in San Diego” — even to ScrippsHealth, which is developing its own new cardiovascular care center.
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