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Momentum Builds in Health Care and Life Sciences

When the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute opened in Jacksonville in 2006, it was just the fifth center in the U.S. to offer the innovative therapy, which targets and destroys cancer cells.

“We chose to build in Jacksonville for its strong economic and population growth, transportation network and UF Health’s large presence in the market,” says Stuart Klein, executive director of the institute.

“The city’s excellent quality of life helps attract and retain top talent in the field of science and medicine.”

The UF Health facility remains one of just 25 proton therapy centers in the nation, solidifying Northeast Florida’s status as a cutting-edge health care center.

In addition to the proton therapy center, healthcare facilities in the area include one of the three Mayo Clinics in the U.S. and one of six Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Centers.

Mayo opened its 386-acre Jacksonville campus in 1986, and over the last three decades it has treated patients from all 50 states and more than 140 countries.

Besides state-of-the-art treatment for patients, Mayo’s Jacksonville campus is also a center of medical research, with more than 300 clinical trials ongoing.

Mayo has invested more than $300 million in new construction projects on the campus and added 900 jobs over the last two years, bringing its total staff to 5,900.

Baptist Health, Northeast Florida’s largest health care system with more than 10,000 employees, is also expanding with several projects, including the cancer center in partnership with MD Anderson.

Leon Haley
“Jacksonville and Northeast Florida continue to grow, and our focus as the region’s premier academic health center will be to continue to do the same.” — Leon Haley, UF Health Jacksonville CEO

Baptist MD Anderson opened in 2015, but a new $180-million, nine-story facility for the cancer center will open in the summer of 2018.

Baptist operates five hospitals in the region, including Wolfson Children’s Hospital. It also has satellite medical campuses on Fleming Island in Clay County and Jacksonville’s Northside, as well as a freestanding emergency center on the Southside.

Another specialty medical facility affiliated with Wolfson Children’s Hospital is the Nemours Children’s Clinic, adjacent to the hospital. Nemours treats children with complicated medical issues.

Nemours was created by a foundation started by Alfred I. duPont, a businessman and philanthropist who lived in Jacksonville for 10 years before his death in 1935.

Beyond the proton therapy center, UF Health operates 37 clinical sites in Northeast Florida and also has colleges of medicine, nursing and pharmacy at its main Jacksonville campus.

“Jacksonville and Northeast Florida continue to grow, and our focus as the region’s premier academic health center will be to continue to do the same,” says UF Health Jacksonville CEO Leon Haley.

One other major hospital network, Ascension St. Vincent’s HealthCare, operates two hospitals in Jacksonville and one in Clay County, and employs more than 5,000 people in the region.

St. Vincent’s is part of Ascension, the largest nonprofit health system in the U.S. and the world’s largest Catholic health system.

Besides health care services, some of the world’s biggest medical products and services companies operate in Northeast Florida. Johnson & Johnson Vision Care produces the world’s leading contact lens brand, Acuvue, from its Jacksonville headquarters. Johnson & Johnson came to the area when it acquired a homegrown Jacksonville business, Frontier Contact Lenses, more than 30 years ago.

Johnson & Johnson Vision Care is one of Jacksonville’s largest companies with more than 2,000 employees and about $3 billion in annual sales.

Another international corporation that bought a homegrown Jacksonville company is Medtronic, which acquired Xomed Surgical Products. Medtronic took over the business that makes surgical instruments for ear, nose and throat doctors and employs more than 700 people.

McKesson, the fifth largest company in the Fortune 500, came to Jacksonville in 2013 when it acquired PSS World Medical, a distributor of medical supplies to physician offices across the country. It also employs more than 700 in Jacksonville.

Northeast Florida’s health care industry continues to draw new businesses to the region. In 2017, Formativ Health announced it would hire up to 500 employees for a new patient access service center.

“We know Jacksonville offers an extraordinary labor force that will enable us to meet our patients’ expectations,” says Formativ CEO Dennis Dowling.

“As a company that supports the medical community by making their operations more efficient and productive, Formativ Health will enhance Jacksonville’s presence in this all-important sector of our economy,” Mayor Lenny Curry said when Formativ announced the new center.

“No one can deny the momentum that is building in Jacksonville, especially in the health and life science sector,” he said.