Children’s Health, the region’s leading pediatric provider, is teaming with UT Southwestern Medical Center to bring an outpatient clinic to RedBird Mall and expand treatment options for children in southern Dallas.
The joint project is the first since UT Southwestern and Children’s formed a pediatric partnership last year, and it’s notable that they chose to expand in an underserved community where health disparities are common.
Much of the past decade’s investment in new hospitals and surgical centers — by all the big players in Dallas — has been concentrated in northern communities, where job growth, incomes and health insurance coverage are especially high.
The Children’s clinic will be housed within a UT Southwestern facility that was announced earlier. In late 2019, UT Southwestern unveiled plans to anchor the redevelopment of RedBird, agreeing to lease an old Sears site and convert 150,000 square feet into an outpatient medical center.
That renovation is still projected to be completed by late next year, but now almost half the space — about 70,000 square feet — will be devoted to pediatrics.
“We’re going to have a huge presence to really serve the unmet needs of the community,” said Dr. Dai Chung, a professor of surgery at UT Southwestern who’s chief medical officer of the UTSW-Children’s enterprise. “Southern Dallas is an important part of D-FW, and we want to be there to serve the families and children.”
Leaders from the two health companies are still working on the range of services and specialties that will be available, he said. The free-standing clinic will treat new patients as well as those following up on care from Children’s main campus north of downtown Dallas.
The companies said the investment in RedBird aligned with their commitment to provide care that children need — and provide it close to their homes in North Texas.
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, applauded the news and said she has long been pushing for more efficient, affordable, quality health care for residents in Dallas and the state.
“I am proud of this joint commitment by Children’s Health and UT Southwestern Medical Center to the RedBird development, so that once again, southern Dallas will have access to world-class, comprehensive care,” Johnson said in a statement. “We must continue working with such long-time, trusted community partners to alleviate the causes and consequences of health inequities in our own communities.”
While the Children’s facility will not result in more leased space at RedBird, it’s still a huge deal, said Peter Brodsky, a former private equity investor who’s redeveloping the project in southern Dallas.
Add the facility being developed by Parkland Health & Hospital System, which totals about 43,000 square feet, and the reimagined RedBird becomes even more vital to the area.
“UT Southwestern, Children’s and Parkland will all be at RedBird,” Brodsky said. “They’ll be providing the full spectrum of medical services and quality health care that this community has been sorely lacking. It’s just an all-around win for everyone.”
There are shortages of many specialty providers in southern Dallas, including in primary care, cardiology, neurology and oncology. Those gaps were projected to grow ever larger by 2024, UT Southwestern said last year when unveiling initial plans for RedBird.
In southern Dallas, mortality rates are much worse for heart disease, stroke and cancer, according to a local community needs assessment.
“There are many factors contributing to that disparity, but one of them is certainly access to health services,” Dr. Daniel Podolsky, president of UT Southwestern, said last year when discussing the RedBird plans.
UT Southwestern wanted to expand to the south and was open to the idea of leasing space in a former shopping mall. Officials took trips to Jackson, Miss., and Nashville, Tenn., to tour malls that had attracted health care services, including major academic medical centers.
They were impressed by how the malls had been reinvented and the communities reenergized by the activity, said Dr. John Warner, executive vice president of health system affairs for UT Southwestern.
“We saw the impact on the health of the community and the public engagement,” Warner said at the time. “They were meeting people where they were.”
The pediatric partnership between UT Southwestern and Children’s Health will present additional opportunities for innovation, said Chung, the chief medical officer.
“This is the first of many joint ventures to come,” he said.
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