Towering Achievements

Health Sciences

In fall 2013, UC San Diego celebrated the “topping out” of UC San Diego Jacobs Medical Center, the largest hospital project in southern California. Special guests—including elected officials, community leaders, and university administrators—signed a steel construction beam, which was then hoisted to the top of the ten-story, 509,500 square-foot structure. The “topping out” ceremony marked the midpoint between groundbreaking and completion of the center, which is scheduled to open in 2016.

Jacobs Medical Center under construction

Jacobs Medical Center, an $839 million addition to UC San Diego Health System’s La Jolla campus, is part of a multi-billion-dollar university investment in future health care for the region. When it opens, the center will house 245 patient beds and include three specialized hospitals: the Hospital for Advanced Surgery, the Hospital for Cancer Care, and the Hospital for Women and Infants. The facility will anchor the La Jolla medical campus, which consists of Thornton Hospital, Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center, Moores Cancer Center, Shiley Eye Center, and the Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute (CTRI) building. The last is also slated for a 2016 opening.

As an academic health system, Jacobs Medical Center will combine soothing environments for healing with evidence-based medical and surgical treatments, many developed at UC San Diego, to achieve the best possible outcomes for patients. UC San Diego surgeons have pioneered innovations in robotic technology, miniaturized microsurgery, single-incision laparoscopy, and natural orifice transluminal surgery. At the Hospital for Advanced Surgery, the design of the new operating rooms will accommodate these lifesaving techniques while promoting surgical safety. Patients will recover in one of twenty-four Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or twelve Intermediate Care Unit (IMU) rooms. All of these rooms will be private and include a bathroom and foldout bed for a family member.

The new Hospital for Women and Infants will encompass the full spectrum of care—from maternal intensive care to soft-touch, midwifery based birthing. For high-risk newborns, the regional Level III Newborn Intensive Care Unit will offer innovative care protocols customized to meet the needs of individual babies.

The $269 million Altman CTRI will help scientists understand disease pathogenesis; develop new methods of treatment, diagnosis, and prevention; translate the results into clinical practice; and study the effectiveness of these cutting-edge approaches.

A Matter of Life and Breath

In late 2013, surgeons at UC San Diego Health System performed their three thousandth pulmonary thromboendarterectomy (PTE). Few institutions in the world offer this lifesaving surgery that clears the pulmonary arteries of scar-like clot tissue. Patients who arrive at UC San Diego Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center seeking surgical removal of these clots share a common trait: breathlessness. The clots cause thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension, which can lead to a life-threatening form of heart failure.

The eight-hour surgery is a feat not only for the patient, but also for the surgeon. In order for the clots to be removed, the surgeon must be able to see clearly into the lung’s arteries. This means operating without blood present. To achieve this environment, the patient’s body is cooled and then put on a cardiopulmonary bypass machine. The machine is stopped for twenty minutes, while the surgeon races against the clock to remove any blockages. During this time both the heart rate and brain waves flatline. Once the arteries and lungs are cleared of disease, the patient is resuscitated.

UC San Diego Health System has more experience in performing this surgery than any other institution globally. The program experienced a less-than 1 percent mortality rate for the past two years—the lowest known postoperative rate worldwide. The procedure can reverse heart failure and is considered more effective than lung transplantation.