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USF Health announces partnership with Lakeland

The USF Board of Trustees officially announced the creation of the new USF Health System Tuesday, with Lakeland Regional Medical Center (LRMC) as its first partner.

The partnership will make more than 200 new medical residencies available to USFs medical school, making it the largest program in Florida.

Elaine Thompson, president and CEO of Lakeland Regional Health Systems (LRHS), also announced Tuesday that LRMCs Board of Directors approved establishing a graduate medical education program with the newly created USF Health System.

There have been long talks with many universities in the area and we were looking for a partner who merged with our way of thought, Ashley Link, public relations and marketing manager at LRMC, said. USF was chosen because of the innovation, research and what it will provide for health care, she said.

The partnership was first announced by USF President Judy Genshaft in her annual state of the university speech last Wednesday. The partnership comes at a time when USFs Lakeland presence was diminishing as the Lakeland branch campus phases into the Tampa campus and Florida Polytechnic University starts as an independent university The partnership has been discussed since Thompson joined LRHS in 2010. At the time, LRHSs Board of Directors shared Thompsons vision to explore graduate medical education, Link said.

This has been a journey for over two years, she said. Our goal here is to provide the best health care in our community.

Referred to as an operational merger, the new partnership will also establish Elaine Thompson as CEO of the new USF Health System and vice president of USF Health, who will report to CEO of USF Health Stephen Klasko and the new board of the system.

No assets will change hands, Lisa Greene, director of strategic communications of USF Health, said. It is a merge of clinical operations.

This announcement begins the collaboration process between USF Health and LRHS, both of which will explore the logistics and do a financial analysis of the partnership. The goal is to have the details of the partnership planned by March 2013, Greene said.

LRMC has 851 hospital beds, 4,500 employees and an active medical staff of 484 physicians. It is the fifth-largest hospital in Florida, according to a USF Health press release.

Because of this partnership, some future LRMC physicians may become a part of USF Health, Link said. LRMCs goal is to provide the best medical care to the community. The added residencies will help achieve that, as many students are more likely to stay in the communities where they did their residencies, Link said.

We want these doctors, she said. We want them here.

The majority of USF residents practice at Tampa General Hospital, which is not planning to join the USF Health System.

Tampa General is still our primary teaching hospital, Greene said. We hope to continue to improve that over time We would invite other hospitals and physicians to join the USF Health System.