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Guest: Scrubs make a difference

By Josh Pearce - | Oct 12, 2021

Mindy Rainey Photography

Josh Pearce

With the recent news of hospitals shutting down all nonessential surgeries in Utah County, many people are wondering what to do next as the best hospitals are all closed. The Intermountain Healthcare CEO said the following: “We’ve done everything we can think of to maintain a normal quality of care, and it’s not enough. … The pause is going to be a challenge … it’s going to make people unhappy; it’s going to make people scared, and in some cases, it’s going to make people miserable.”

My grandfather is one of those people who will be miserable from hospitals closing. He was scheduled for a nonessential surgery on his nose because it gives him constant pain, which impairs his breathing, and severely reduces his oxygen. While this isn’t immediately life-threatening, the excruciating pain he feels with every breath, and the lack of oxygen his body isn’t receiving, certainly brings it close. For the thousands of people waiting for the ban to be lifted on nonessential surgeries, it begs the question of how life could be different if there was another hospital in Provo to take the load off Intermountain Healthcare. Because of the positive impact that Brigham Young University could have in the community with a medical school, this should be a top priority for its leadership to consider.

The city of Provo is one of the fastest-growing communities in the world, matched with the No.1 economy in America according to the Milken Institute, the world-renowned research think tank. With the population influx and economic growth, another hospital in this packed valley should be at the top of the list of priorities to maintain health standards and reduce overcrowded, and currently closed, waiting rooms. Right now, doctors can order prescriptions, provide basic care, order lab tests, learn new techniques, and save lives. However, there are not enough of them to handle all the needs in this area. Analogous to honey bees in a hive, medical professionals are hurriedly going room-to-room, office-to-office, trying to keep up with the endless work that needs to be done. Only in this beehive, there is too much honey to store, which halts production. If BYU had a medical school, they would increase the number of available doctors that could help satisfy the demand for care in this rapidly growing community, while also reducing the overwhelming patient load of Intermountain Healthcare. People like my grandfather would be able to have their nonessential surgeries performed.

But do medical schools really help hospitals? According to Doctor Glenn Goldman, they do. In an article he wrote about academic medical centers, those that have students, residents, and certified doctors working together, tend to be more patient-friendly, provide better care, and are more efficient than regular hospitals. For those who have gone to the doctor’s office and waited a lifetime for simple checkups, or had to wait hours to get a nurse to stop by their room, this should bring some hope. Just the other day I was stuck at the doctor’s office for three painfully long hours for a simple checkup. BYU students working alongside Intermountain Healthcare doctors could significantly improve the outcomes and care of patients in the community.

Building a medical school does not come without its problems. For instance, it would take a large amount of land and money to propel this project forward. With the new acquisition of Provo High School across University Avenue from lower campus, the community at large thought this would finally be the time that BYU would add a prestigious school of medicine to their other highly-ranked colleges. As time keeps ticking away nobody knows what will happen to this stagnant land. With its convenient location from BYU, and adjacent to Intermountain Healthcare, this is the perfect spot to place a medical school. BYU could even form a partnership with Intermountain Healthcare. This would immediately allow students to learn from the best, while helping BYU promptly establish their school and compete with other medical schools in the nation. This is the perfect opportunity.

While former BYU Vice-President Alan Wilkins explains “money” is the ultimate standstill for building, he had this to say to the Daily Universe in 1999. “The issue deals less with student demand and more with the financial and business aspect of implementing and maintaining a medical school. Medical schools are just huge cash hogs.” While it is true that the cost of building a medical school would be huge, everyone familiar with the community and BYU knows that the financial challenges could be overcome because of its sponsor’s (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) worldwide fundraising capabilities.

A few years ago, and to better compete on the national stage in athletics, BYU wanted to build a new Indoor Practice Facility and Student-Athlete Building to compete with the best schools from around the country — a project that would cost millions of dollars. In virtually no time, however, BYU fans from around the world came together and funded the project (“Generous Gifts”). I believe this would be the case with raising money for a medical school — and for a much more important purpose than being able to compete athletically.

BYU can do something no other medical school could do in the world; they can combine medicine and the power of God. This unique religious school has always worked to bring its students every opportunity to learn and serve. “The mission of Brigham Young University — founded, supported, and guided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — is to assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life. That assistance should provide a period of intensive learning in a stimulating setting where a commitment to excellence is expected, and the full realization of human potential is pursued.” This means that with the assistance of the church, students can rely on the Spirit in their day-to-day studies.

A renowned heart surgeon and pioneer of the heart-lung machine making heart surgery possible is the current leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. President Russell M. Nelson is no stranger to the importance of inspiration. In his early years of surgery, the fib that was quoted amongst all heart surgeons was “if you touch the human heart, it will stop beating.” With God leading his efforts, Dr. Nelson and his team pioneered this method of heart surgery to save millions of lives. In his book, Dr. Nelson explains that none of it would have been possible without the hand of God.

Imagine the impact a religious institution matched with a medical school could make. Life-saving techniques and new technologies would emerge as the best students from around the world look to bring innovation to the medical field under the guidance of God. Ben Carson, a renowned brain surgeon and devout Christian, said: “Do your best and let God do the rest.” BYU can make changes that will save millions of lives as they put God on the frontlines in medicine.

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