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Midwest shines among best hospitals in U.S.

A recent article (8/8/06) in ePrairie reviewed the top 100 most wired hospitals in the U.S., with 25 Midwest hospitals making the cut in the top 100. While this is a sign of progress in U.S. hospitals, perhaps the most definitive evaluation of U.S. hospitals is U.S. News & World Report annual survey (7/17/06) (www.usnews.com/besthospitals).

The 2006 survey had some very interesting results, and I have tried to cull the best of the Midwest from this national survey. In this survey, 176 medical institutions appear, but 5,189 U.S. hospitals were evaluated. U.S. News & World Report has a lot of practice in completing this survey, which started in 1990.

The study looks at 16 medical or disease specialties. The top hospitals (the leading 14 hospitals) showed excellence in at least six specialties. In 11 of the 16 specialties, a large amount of hard data was available to evaluate and measure a hospital's ranking; in the other five specialties, the ranking is based principally on specialists' voting on a hospital's reputation.

The parameters used for ranking and evaluating the hospitals included:
  1. Reputation
  2. Mortality rate
  3. Discharges (3 years)
  4. Nursing Index (nurse-to-patient ratio)
  5. Nurse magnet hospital
  6. Technology (# of technologies available)
  7. Patient/community services
  8. NCI designated-cancer center
  9. Hospice/palliative care
Physicians were the key persons completing the evaluations.

Let's take a look at the results of this year's survey!
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America's Best Hospitals - 2006
Disease AreaLeading Midwest HospitalNext Best Midwest Hospital3rd Best Midwest Hospital4th Best Midwest Hospital
Honor Roll (Overall)#2 - Mayo Clinic (Rochester, MN)#3 - Cleveland Clinic (Cleveland, OH)#8 - Barnes-Jewish Hosp./ Washington Univ. (St. Louis, MO)#12 - Univ. of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI)
Cancer#4 - Mayo Clinic#8 - University of Chicago Hosp.#13 - Cleveland Clinic#17 - Barnes-Jewish Hosp./Washington Univ.
Digestive Disorders#1 Mayo Clinic#2 - Cleveland Clinic#6 - University of Chicago#9 - Clarian Health Partners (Indianapolis, IN)
Ear, Nose & Throat#2 - University of Iowa Hospitals (Iowa City)#6 - Barnes-Jewish/ Washington Univ.#7 - Cleveland Clinic#8 - Mayo Clinic
Endocrinology#1 - Mayo Clinic#5 - Barnes-Jewish Hosp./ Washington Univ.#7 - Cleveland Clinic#13 - University of Chicago
Gynecology#3 - Mayo Clinic#8 - Cleveland Clinic#20 - Ohio State University (Columbus, OH)#21 - University of Michigan
Heart & Heart Surgery#1 - Cleveland Clinic#2 - Mayo Clinic#10 - Barnes-Jewish/Washington Univ.#12 - William Beaumont Hospital, (Royal Oak, MI)
Kidney Disease#2 - Mayo Clinic#3 Cleveland Clinic#7 - Barnes-Jewish Hosp./Washington Univ.#13 University of Michigan
Neurology & Neurosurgery#1 - Mayo Clinic#5 - Cleveland Clinic#8 - Barnes-Jewish Hosp./ Washington Univ.#12 Rush University Medical Center (Chicago)
Orthopedics#1 - Mayo Clinic#5 - Cleveland Clinic#6 - Rush University Medical Center#7 - University of Iowa Hospitals
Respiratory Disorders#2 - Mayo Clinic#7 - Cleveland Clinic#8 - Barnes-Jewish Hosp./Washington Univ.#15 - University of Michigan
Urology#2 - Cleveland Clinic#8 - Barnes-Jewish Hosp./ Washington Univ.#14 - Clarian Health Partners (Indianapolis)#15 - University of Michigan
Ophthalmology*#6 - University of Iowa Hosp.#11 - Barnes-Jewish Hosp.#13 - Mayo Clinic#14 - Cleveland Clinic
Pediatrics*#4 - Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital ((Cleveland)#8 - Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center#10 - Children's Memorial Hospital (Chicago)#14 - St. Louis Children's Hospital
Psychiatry*#11 - Mayo Clinic#14 - Barnes-Jewish Hosp.#20 - Cleveland Clinic#21 - University Hospital Cincinnati
Rehabilitation*#1 - Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago #4 - Mayo Clinic#9 - Ohio State University Hospital (Columbus)#11 - University of Michigan Hosp.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, July 17, 2006

*=ranking based on reputation only as determined by physicians

Surprisingly, the Midwest fares incredibly well right from the get-go, with four hospitals in the top 14 hospitals in the U.S. Note that the number one hospital is Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, which has maintained its number one ranking for more than the last 10 years, but not far behind it are the Midwest's Mayo and Cleveland Clinics.

While I knew that the Mayo Clinic was an outstanding center, one usually thinks of the Cleveland Clinic as a center of excellence for the treatment of cardiac disorders, where it ranks number one in the nation. However, it ranks amazingly strong in a number of other disease areas, including neurology/neurosurgery, orthopedics, gynecology, endocrinology, ear nose & throat, to just name a few areas.

Although it didn't make the cut into the top 14 hospitals, surprisingly University of Iowa Hospital was well-ranked in a couple of key areas including: ear, nose & throat (#2), and ophthalmology. Even more impressive was the performance of St. Louis' Barnes-Jewish Hospital of Washington University, which ranked 8th overall and very high in a number of disease categories.

Also a surprise, none of the major Chicago hospitals (University of Chicago, Northwestern University's two teaching hospitals, Rush University Medical Hospital, University of Illinois Hospital, Loyola Medical School Hospital, etc.) ranked in the top 14 hospitals. However, various Chicago hospitals performed well in certain categories, such as Rush's number six ranking in orthopedics and number 12 ranking in neurology, and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago as number one in Rehabilitation, and University of Chicago #13 in endocrinology.

A more extensive analysis of this list would show that the Midwest had a lot of depth in the top 25 ranked hospitals in each specialty/disease area, which is gratifying, and good to know if you live in the Midwest. The myth is that best hospital care is on the East and West Coasts, but this list dispels that myth!

New music from three veterans

As it has been a while since I have talked about music, it is time to get off my duff and get back into it. The catalyst in this case is having recently acquired and played repeatedly three new CDs that have emerged this year from three veterans, one of whom has departed this land and is no longer with us. The three artists and their CD's were:
  1. Paul Simon's "Surprise"
  2. Bruce Springsteen's "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions"
  3. Johnny Cash's "Cash"
Paul Frederic Simon (www.paulsimon.com), the small (5'3") but prolific folk-rocker, was born on Oct. 13, 1941 in Newark, New Jersey, and was brought up in Queens, N.Y., went to Queens College where he graduated with a B.A. in English. He then went on to pursue a degree in law but quit to pursue a career in music with high school buddy Art Garfunkel (whom he had started playing with back in 1957). He was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the group Simon & Garfunkel in 1990, and then again as a solo artist in 2001. At almost 65, he is still one of the founding members of the 1960s rock generation, where his initial emergence came through folk songs filled with social protest.

I am, and have been, a huge fan of Paul Simon's since the release of his and partner Art Garfunkel's first album in 1966: "The Sound of Silence." When he and Art Garfunkel split in the early 70s, I was devastated; after all, this duo articulated incredibly meaningful songs during my high school years that seemed to represent my own inner thoughts, and growth pains, as well as mirror thoughts about what was going on during these turbulent years in the U.S. Like Bob Dylan, they expanded the folk genre further into social unrest.

Simon had such an impact on me that, when as a high school senior we were asked to put down a favorite personal quote for the yearbook, I listed Simon's words from a poignant song of the era: "Time, time, time - see what's become of me, while I looked around for my possibilities - Look around!" (from the song "Hazy Shade of Winter").

As the solo Simon's music morphed into new African rock and then Brazilian rock with new rhythms, as well incorporating a good sense of humor ("You can call me Al" and "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover"), I applauded these new musical directions that he had chosen.

For this very same reason, "Surprise," his newest CD and the first he has released in the last few years, is such a great disappointment! It seems slick and too "safe" - its very lack of going off in new directions is a big letdown. Paul Simon - why have you all of a sudden gone down the path of bland music and non-distinctive lyrics. So much for Paul Simon!

Bruce Springsteen was born on Sept. 23, 1949 and will soon be 57. He was brought up not far from Paul Simon in the New York Metropolitan area (southern New Jersey). Although he had been playing bands since the mid-1960s it was not until 1972 when he was signed by Columbia Records and released his first album in 1973 to minimal acclaim. He revised his band the following year, and in 1975 released "Born to Run" with the E Street Band, and began to receive the kind of acclaim he deserved, and hasn't stopped since that time.

Now I will have to admit, and you may start throwing e-tomatoes at me, I am NOT a big Bruce Springsteen fan. I do enjoy a number of his songs, but don't particularly like listening to song-after-song. Most of style is pretty predictable and in a similar vein (I am now dodging multiple e-fruits and e-eggs). Nevertheless, I found Springsteen's new album to be refreshing and a joy for a number of reasons:
  1. The album blends several types of musical styles effectively (if at times in strange ways): zydeco, Dixie-land jazz, bluegrass, and plain simple acoustic folk!
  2. The music is a tribute to folk legend and pioneer Pete Seeger and the song brought back lots of memories of childhood sing-alongs. A good part of my childhood summers were spent on a former whaling island off the coast of Massachusetts known as Martha's Vineyard. Back then, it was not the hip and moneyed haven it is today, and the other half of the island where we stayed (in places like Menemsha, Chilmark, Lobsterville) was pretty rural and simple, with strong traces of American Indian culture. At least once a week, there would be family sing-alongs at the Chilmark community center lead by young unknown folk guitarists (often the Taylor family including Alex, Livingston, sister Kate, and, of course, James, along with friends such as Danny Kortchmar - "Danny Kootch") would lead me and other kids in songs about "Jesse James," "Jacob's Ladder," "Froggie went a courting," "Erie Canal," and "O Mary don't you weep." I had flashbacks to those summers listening to this album.
  3. It is clear that Springsteen and friends are having a lot of fun on this album!
  4. A reminder of the great impact that Pete Seeger had on the American folk scene in digging up and playing traditional American folk songs.
I recommend this one to anyone from that era that wants a journey into their past and childhood.

The last artist, Johnny Cash (www.johnnycash.com), born and raised in Arkansas, is no longer with us, having passed away at age 71 during September of 2003 from complications of diabetes, four months after his wife June Carter Cash died of complications following heart surgery. Once again, I will have to warn you that I am not a Johnny Cash fan. I can remember hearing his songs during my high school years, and "A Boy Named Sue" really grated on me. In fact, I was never really a country music fan until in the mid-1980s, when I visited the Grand Old Opry in Nashville.

Now I must say, that the Johnny Cash movie "Walk the Line" with Joaquin Phoenix captured my attention both musically and historically, as I enjoyed particularly the sequence about his early touring years with Elvis, the Big Bopper, and others from that era.

Of all three CD's, this one is the most poignant and emotional, as you can hear Johnny Cash literally fading away from life through the songs. Some of the songs go back to Cash's gospel roots and perhaps he is seeking that final forgiveness from his Maker knowing that he is in his last days. Two songs, "If You could Read My Mind" by Gordon Lightfoot and "Four Strong Winds," a Canadian song made famous by Neil Young, are particularly tear-jerking as you can hear Cash threading his way through them with his last bit of life lending real sadness.

This album was the biggest gratifying surprise of all three, perhaps due to its simplicity and last effort by Cash, who died before the album was released. Enjoy the listening!

See you soon!

Michael S. Rosen is senior vice president of new business development for the Science & Technology Group of Forest City Enterprises, which builds bio-parks across the U.S. and currently has bio-parks completed or under development in Cambridge, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, and Denver. Rosen is also a founder and board member of the Illinois Biotechnology Industry Organization. He can be reached at rosenmichaels@aol.com

The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC, accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.

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