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New Kaiser Permanente Medical School in Downtown Pasadena Clears First Design Hurdle

Published on Friday, September 16, 2016 | 4:36 am
The planned five-story building located will be built at the southeast corner of South Los Robles Avenue and East Green Street, on what is now a parking lot. Photo courtesy Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente’s new medical school in downtown Pasadena cleared the first hurdle on its track to completion as preliminary plans were approved Tuesday during the City’s Design Commission meeting.

The planned five-story building to be located at the southeast corner of South Los Robles Avenue and East Green Street will train students to be physicians in communities across the country, wherever they choose to practice.

“We are designing a curriculum focused on providing high-quality, patient-centered care in both traditional and nontraditional settings, with an emphasis on collaboration and teamwork. Patient engagement, shared decision-making and evidence-based practice will be core to the curriculum design,” said Edward M. Ellison, MD, executive medical director of the Southern California Permanente Medical Group, earlier this year. “While we anticipate that some of our graduates will want to practice at Kaiser Permanente, we are more focused on equipping new doctors to meet the health needs of 21st century patients and communities.”

Though still in its early planning stages, school officials have suggested they may be ready to start accepting students as soon as fall of 2019. The project will now be moving onto the next phase, which is to obtain a conditional use permit for parking reductions, said Amanda Landry, planner of the City of Pasadena’s Community Development Department.

Then, it will have to get a conditional use permit for new construction exceeding 25,000 feet before having its concept design reviewed. Afterwards, its final design would be analyzed and the school could then obtain its building permits, according to Landry.

The School was chosen to be built in Pasadena due to the city’s distinct features, according to Marc Klau, MD,  vice dean for education and clinical integration at the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine.

“After an extensive site selection process, the city of Pasadena was chosen as the location for its diverse community, proximity to numerous Kaiser Permanente medical centers, as well as proximity to safety net clinics, housing, public transit, major freeways and amenities,” said Klau.

Despite still being in the early stages of its development, both Kaiser Permanente and the City of Pasadena are in the process of determining the building’s core design requirements.

“We will be working closely with the City of Pasadena throughout the design process,” said Christine Cassel, MD, the planning dean of the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine. “Our goal is to design a structure that supports our vision for the future of medical education, that nurtures collaborative and innovative approaches to medicine, and that enhances the City of Pasadena and contributes to its aesthetic uniqueness.”

Michael Johnson, director of Pasadena’s Public Health Department, said that he’s met with Kaiser representatives to discuss potential partnerships with med school students who will rotate through the school’s programs.

“We’re very excited, we think it will have a positive benefit on community health,” Johnson said. “We’re looking forward to those opportunities.”

Cassel said Kaiser Permanente has developed a strong relationship with Pasadena and its health department, and the initial meetings between them opened up a likelihood of collaboration that would benefit them both.

“Pasadena will be our campus and the students and faculty will be active consumers of our city’s cultural, residential, commercial offerings. It is also likely some of our faculty, administration and students will choose to call Pasadena home,” Cassel said. “This, combined with our collaborations with other local institutions of learning, will form numerous connections between our students, our school and the Pasadena community.”

Klau said the school plans to train physicians who will be practicing medicine in 2025 and beyond, and to achieve this goal effectively, they will need to increase their reliance on technology.

“What is current and even cutting edge today will be ‘yesterday’s news’ by the time we enroll our first class,” Klau said. “This challenge requires us to engage as futurists and at the same time be solid pragmatists. The school will prepare students for how new technology impacts health care delivery – robotics, simulation, miniaturization, imaging technologies, and patients’ increased reliance on mobile technology.”

Kaiser Permanente is a community of over 17,000 physicians committed to “total health,” a term coined by the group’s founding physician, Dr. Sidney Garfield, who believed in promoting the physical, mental and social well-being of a person.

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