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Eskenazi Health

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2013 CVAs: Eskenazi Health

Matt Gutwein, president and CEO of Marion County’s Health and Hospital Corp.

Matt Gutwein, president and CEO of Marion County's Health and Hospital Corp says research suggests the bio-medical model only accounts for about 15 percent of healing. Were trying to address that other 85 percent as well.

Gutwein is talking about the city's transformed public hospital, Eskenazi Health, a new, $754 million state-of-the-art facility that not only builds upon the accomplishments of Wishard, the city's oldest hospital, but represents an invigorated vision for the overall public health of Indianapolis.

Due to open Dec. 7, Eskenazi Healths realization stems from an extraordinary expression of public support. In 2009, at the bottom of the Great Recession, Gutwein and his board put forth a public referendum asking citizens to support $600 million in bonds to build a new public hospital. The proposal won, with a resounding 85 percent in favor. The yes vote prevailed in every one of Marion Countys 522 precincts.

Eskenazi Health will build on the trail-blazing approaches to public health long associated with Wishard Hospital. The overriding theme that we've brought to this is how do we keep people from getting sick in the first place, says Gutwein. How do we promote health and wellness and get at the root causes of illness so people don't wind up being very ill and very expensive patients.

The new hospital will not only be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, LEED, certified for its green design features, it will also feature a Sky Farm, where it will grow fresh produce to help feed patients and staff; utilize specially commissioned works of art; and create a significant new public space, called Eskenazi Commons.

Through the leadership of Dr. Lisa Harris, Wishard's CEO and medical director, the hospital has revolutionized its approach to food. Harris began by encouraging staff members to begin cultivating plots of the Wishard campus. From there, she saw to it that fresh produce was utilized by the hospital food service, and that affordable vegetarian options were offered in the cafeteria.

These efforts have been extended to the larger community through Wishard's investment in local farmers markets and community gardens, as well as through public nutrition classes that provide locally grown fruits and vegetables at reduced prices. The Sky Farm takes these efforts to another level. It will place a fully functioning farm on the roof of the new

Eskenazi building. Food grown at the Sky Farm will be used by the hospital food service. We will emphasize that people are eating the very food they are looking at, says Gutwein. Its also a statement about our city. We want to say that the public hospital having a sky farm is part of the values we share as a city.

The hospital will also use works of art as a way of adding value to the healing experience. We want to find ways to create optimism and hope, says Gutwein. We think art is important for that.

Eskenazi Commons grew out of Gutweins observation that the public hospital is a microcosm containing the city's multitudes. It occurred to me that on that piece of real estate, on any given day, may be the greatest diversity found in the state of Indiana.

Gutweins vision for Eskenazi Commons is to have a public place where human connections and relationships are encouraged and nurtured. The whole purpose is community and place-making. We want to draw and attract people. Were doing this because we think it heals people.

Gutwein sees Eskenazi Health as building on a legacy that has been sustained by citizens for 150 years. Its been an incredible privilege to be part of this.

-David Hoppe