With a new hospital rising over the Eisenhower Expressway and new rooftop gardens in bloom, Rush University Medical Center embodies the rejuvenation of Chicago's West Side. That's no accident. Over the past few decades, Rush has played an important role in the West Side's steady emergence from years of economic struggle and physical decay.
As two other medical schools moved away from the struggling neighborhood, Rush upheld its commitment to the area by investing in new facilities, including the Armour Academic Center, which opened in 1976, and the Atrium Building, which opened in 1982. Over the following years, the West Side began to flourish as other new and refurbished buildings, including offices and condos, appeared.
Then, in 2006, Rush reaffirmed its commitment to the community: It launched a 10-year redevelopment project, called the Rush Transformation, to redesign and reorient the campus and the way Rush provides medical care. The project entails new and renovated buildings designed to better support patient needs, as well as advanced technology that will improve the quality, safety and efficiency of patient care.
Another major part of this plan — less visible than the new construction but no less important — comprises the creation of opportunities for area residents.
With more than 8,000 employees, Rush is the largest nongovernmental employer on the West Side. So from the beginning, Rush leadership conceived the transformation as a way to rejuvenate not only the campus but also the lives of people who live around it. To achieve this aim, the Medical Center has been collaborating with local leaders and institutions to ensure that residents have the skills to establish promising careers — and to keep the West Side prospering long into the future.
For example, as part of an agreement between Rush and Malcolm X College, Rush University faculty members help the college develop its health sciences programs and the Medical Center provides clinical training opportunities for students in those programs. Rush also hosts an annual job fair at the college, where it identifies, and often hires, neighborhood talent.
Such talent gets applied in a variety of clinical and nonclinical settings. For instance, to help build the new hospital tower, Rush recruited and helped provide training for construction workers from the area. Rush also encouraged each of the contractors working on the transformation to hire a designated number of community residents.
Working toward the future
With about half of the transformation project still on the horizon, Rush will keep calling on workers from the community to help drive the ongoing rejuvenation of the Medical Center and the surrounding neighborhoods.
"That's what will have the most lasting impact on the community," says Terry Peterson, MPA, vice president for corporate and external affairs at Rush. "The new hospital building is beautiful and will be an amazing resource. But if you can provide people with training and a stable career path with a steady income — something that can help them give their kids more opportunities or move from renting to home ownership — those things will ensure the West Side thrives for years to come."
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