More Than a Ribbon-Cutting

By on August 2, 2018

From St. Louis Post-Dispatch:  by Richard Liekweg, President & CEO, BJC Healthcare

When most of us think about the significance of hospitals, it’s natural for our thoughts to immediately turn to treatment of illness and disease. And that is understandable, given it is the first mission of all health care institutions.

However, on July 12, I took my place behind a green ribbon to celebrate the completion of construction of 50 units of affordable housing in a St. Louis city neighborhood known as Forest Park Southeast. This celebration was not only the culmination of a yearlong construction project, but a reflection of the impact hospitals have on the very fabric of their communities beyond providing excellent health services. By building attractive, affordable housing adjacent to a vibrant medical campus where some 20,000 employees, residents, students, physicians, faculty, researchers and staff work every day, we also have the ability to build and strengthen our neighborhoods and our communities.

Many in attendance at the celebration likely don’t know that this project is rooted in choices made more than 40 years ago when four separate, but connected, institutions made the decision to stay in a city that many others were abandoning for more economically promising locations across the county border. Our predecessors at Barnes Hospital, The Jewish Hospital of St. Louis, St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine all believed that they had the obligation, opportunity and privilege to not only provide world-class health services to members of the region, but also the responsibility to work to improve the community they would continue to call home. To be a catalyst in revitalization, they set their sights on working together to improve the three neighborhoods rimming their immediate campuses — the Central West End to the north, what is now known as Cortex to the east, and Forest Park Southeast to the south.

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