Ohio State inpatient hospital marks new era in health care

May they honor our frontline health care team
Who for generations have taught that a world without disease is more than just a dream

It is their duty, their calling
From the sun rise to its falling
In the heat of pandemics and wars

Through sweat and tears, they march steadfast through these doors

They are the Builders, on the shoulders of giants they ascend
To treat this city with compassion, to provide hope without end

— Excerpt from To The Builders, by Antoinette Pusateri, MD

If health care workers and medical leaders have learned anything in the past year and a half of a global pandemic, it’s how to weather a storm.

The skill was put to the test on Tuesday, Aug. 17, as The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center heralded a new era of health care in central Ohio.

Under a tent peppered with the steady drumbeat of rain, a crowd of community and government representatives, Ohio State leaders, and medical center faculty and staff celebrated a new inpatient hospital, now 10 months into construction on Ohio State’s main medical campus.

“I’m convinced that, like a wedding, rain will bring good luck,” said Hal Paz, MD, executive vice president and chancellor for Health Affairs at The Ohio State University and chief executive officer of the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.

3BradfordAndTeamLeft image: Ohio State College of Medicine Dean Carol Bradford, MD, celebrates alongside other health science leaders of Ohio State.
Right image: Standing on the construction site of the Ohio State’s newest inpatient hospital with President Kristina Johnson and Dr. Hal Paz (both in middle) are honored medical center staff Cherri McHolan, RN; clinical engineering specialist Steve Marsh; respiratory therapist Heelowlay Ali; patient access coordinator Carla Cardwell; patient transporter Gregory Bailey; patient care associate Christopher Walker; and nutrition aide Savannah Addai.

The $1.79 billion tower is the largest single facilities project ever undertaken at Ohio State.

It’s designed to completely transform the way health care reaches Ohioans, Dr. Paz said.

Ohio State University President Kristina M. Johnson emphasized the magnitude of the project, just one of a constellation of university facilities across central Ohio that she said will advance and uplift the well-being of the community.

For example, a bevy of large, comprehensive outpatient facilities make Ohio State’s research and clinical advances available to more families where they live and work, while a new College of Nursing building and interdisciplinary research facility create the next generation of health care leaders in evidence-based practice and in groundbreaking research.

DrPazSpeaking

“We are not only redefining the future of health care, but also building a new vision for the way academic health care reaches communities — through innovative, personalized and integrated delivery methods that better serve our patients.”

– Hal Paz, MD, executive vice president and chancellor for Health Affairs at The Ohio State University and chief executive officer of the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center

Johnson

“These facilities will help unleash the talents of our community and make a tremendous impact on the collective health and well-being of our region.”

– Kristina M. Johnson, Ohio State University president

Creating space for connection and ingenuity

The new hospital, on track to open in early 2026, is designed as a pillar of evidence-based practices and the latest advancements in health care, but also as a center of compassion and warmth.

“The things that I find most exciting are the profound, individual-level impacts that this new facility will enable," Johnson said. "They range from the discoveries that will give new hope to a family when hope is all that keeps them going, to the small comforts that can provide a big boost to a caregiver who is exhausted.”

Every patient room is large enough for a family member to stay with the patient. Thoughtfully placed throughout the facility are myriad eating and meeting areas, as well as restorative spaces.

Meanwhile, Ohio State’s uniquely multidisciplinary staff, from physicians to nurses to scientists and lab technicians, are brought into closer working proximity so that they can translate new research discoveries into patient care more quickly than ever.

Fostering better health for central Ohio’s future

Ever-present among those in attendance Tuesday was the knowledge of just how important health care access has become during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic has underscored for us the real and pressing need to invest in state-of-the-art brick and mortar inpatient facilities to ensure that we have the means to care for all those we serve,” Dr. Paz said, “including those who come to us from all 88 counties in Ohio, from across the nation and beyond, in need of highly specialized, highly acute care.”

Among the leaders in attendance were U.S. Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, Columbus City Council President Pro Tempore Elizabeth Brown and Randy Gardner, chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

Each echoed the vital roles health care workers have played in society not just in fighting COVID-19, but in standing for health equity and justice, and in laying the foundation of research that will change the future.

“I say to all who are gathered here today: Think about what our children, our grandchildren and those yet unborn will say about research,” Beatty said. “I believe they will say that the common facts of today are the products of yesterday’s research. And that is your legacy here today.”

PaintingAndConversationLeft image: Keith "Von" Hasenbalg adds finishing touches to his rendering of the new inpatient hospital.
Right image: Randy Gardner, chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education, chats with U.S. Representative Joyce Beatty and others at the “Building a Healthier Tomorrow” event.

Embracing the humanity in health care

Punctuating remarks at the stage were the quiet brushstrokes of local artist Keith “Von” Hasenbalg, who completed a rendering of the new facility while leaders spoke of the future. Hiding in the painting’s windows, the façade and the sidewalk were phrases representing the project, such as “improved access,” “new jobs” and “increased capacity.”

For many at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, these practical enhancements are as thrilling as the hope of better days to come.

“I’m excited about new equipment, easier access to imaging like CT scans and MRI — just everything better, more, bigger,” said Heelowlay Ali, a respiratory therapist who works with COVID-19 patients at the Wexner Medical Center.

“But Columbus is growing, and our patient population is growing. Especially in a pandemic like this, we need more beds. We need larger facilities to match our growth.”

Concluding the program — to a standing ovation — was a spoken word poetry performance from Antoinette Pusateri, MD.

A first-year fellow in the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center’s Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Dr. Pusateri also knows firsthand the particular challenges of working on the front lines of a pandemic. “Packed wards this whole year/there has simply been no space for uncertainty or fear,” she recited. “Cacophony of alarms, our teams, machines sustaining lives/I hear my voice call orders: one more day, we will survive!”

To The Builders, the poem she wrote for the occasion, was inspired by the literal sparks of a welder’s work as Dr. Pusateri left an exhausting, 14-hour shift, pausing near the site of the new hospital construction.

“I saw that welder and that spark,” Dr. Pusateri said later, “and it signified all the ways that I feel blessed to be able to help solve the problems in this pandemic. This is why I love art and poetry — its ability to help bring us through this pandemic together.

“To me, there is only one choice, and that is hope.”

Pusateri

My soul is renewed by this spark, now my dreams take flight!
Thanks to the Builders, time and change will surely say,
“Scarlet and Gray
are the colors of the dawn of this new day.”

— Excerpt from To The Builders, by Antoinette Pusateri, MD