San Antonio partnership makes Top 50 Hospitals in 3 specialties

The Health Science Center provides all the physicians to staff University Health System facilities, which collectively were recognized among America’s Best Hospitals.

From Health Science Center and University Health System reports

For the seventh consecutive year, University Health System, one of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio’s primary teaching hospitals, has made a U.S. News & World Report list of the best U.S. hospitals. The magazine evaluated 5,189 U.S. hospitals as part of its 17th annual “America’s Best Hospitals” study. Evaluators found University to be one of just 176 hospitals – or about 3 percent – to meet the rigorous criteria to be recognized as a Top 50 hospital in at least one of 16 key medical/surgical specialties. The rankings appear in the July 17 edition of the magazine, which hit newsstands on July 10.

University Health System, in partnership with The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, is recognized as one of the Top 50 hospitals in the nation in three specialties – Heart/Heart Surgery, Orthopedics and Endocrinology (hormonal disorders, primarily diabetes care).

U.S. News examined 16 specialties for this year’s report. Each hospital received a score based equally on reputation, mortality and a mix of quality factors (including patient volume, nursing ratios, trauma designation and technology). The 50 hospitals in each specialty with the highest scores are ranked and published in this report.

According to U.S News, the 176 hospitals ranked in the 2006 report:
• Perform large numbers of complex procedures
• Adhere more closely to advanced treatment guidelines
• Incorporate new findings into patient care
• Conduct research that give desperately ill patients more options

“The excellence of our faculty and residents, the commitment to staying on the cutting edge of clinical care and the determination to make a difference in the lives of everyone in South Texas – these are the characteristics that have propelled us again to this level of recognition. We are proud to be a partner with the University Health System, the residents of Bexar County and indeed, the entire region,” said Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., president of the Health Science Center.

“We are very pleased to have earned this important national recognition again,” said University Health System President/CEO George B. Hernández, Jr. “Many people in our community know University Hospital as the lead trauma hospital or as the hub of the Safety Net for the uninsured. Caring for the indigent of Bexar County and the most severely injured patients from across South/Central Texas are our core missions. But, thanks to our partnership with The University of Texas Health Science Center, we are also an academic medical center that is consistently ranked among the most prestigious medical institutions in the country. This partnership adds tremendous value to our community.”

The rankings are a testament to the team commitment of the Health Science Center and one of its major clinical partners, the University Health System, faculty physicians said.

University Hospital, staffed by hundreds of Health Science Center faculty, is ranked in the Top 50 Hospitals in three major clinical areas: heart and heart surgery (No. 33), endocrinology (No. 48) and orthopaedics (No. 49).

Heart and heart surgery

“This represents a long-term commitment of the Health Science Center toward developing and performing really cutting-edge procedures in cardiology and cardiac surgery, and working with our University Health System partners to provide rapid, efficient and quality care for patients in South Texas and beyond,” said John H. Calhoon, M.D., professor and head, division of cardiothoracic surgery, and occupant of the Calhoon President’s Council Chair in Surgery. “It’s an ongoing effort to approach cardiac care in a programmatic fashion, with the emergency room team, cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons, anesthesiology group, and our UHS administrative and nursing teams working collaboratively to create the absolute best care possible for the patient.”

The Health Science Center has a history of excellence in cardiovascular disease treatment and research, dating to the invention of the Palmaz stent by Julio Palmaz, M.D., in the 1980s.

“The division of cardiology is very proud to participate with our surgical colleagues in providing the very best of care to the patients of the University Health System,” said Gregory L. Freeman, M.D., who holds the Freeman Heart Professorship in the cardiology division. “In the outpatient clinic, the cardiac care unit, noninvasive labs and the catheterization suite, our physicians bring expertise and passion to their craft. It is truly gratifying to receive this sign of recognition for our continued commitment to clinical excellence.”


The endocrinology recognition is largely the result of recognizing a community need and meeting it, said Ralph DeFronzo, M.D., professor and chief of the diabetes division at the Health Science Center and medical director of the Texas Diabetes Institute (TDI), a University Health System facility located in San Antonio’s West Side. “I’ve been here since 1988,” he said, “and we have constructed the TDI, which is the largest and most sophisticated center for the treatment of type 2 diabetes in the U.S. It is a large part of why we rank so highly. The No. 1 health problem in this community is diabetes and all its complications, and having a world-class center is a testimony to the commitment to diabetes care shown by the combined efforts of the Health Science Center and the University Health System.”

The Health Science Center has recruited some of the most outstanding clinical diabetologists and endocrinologists in the U.S., and they have made seminal discoveries, Dr. DeFronzo said. “Many of the basic physiologic abnormalities that are present in type 2 diabetes have been discovered here, including the very important role of insulin resistance in type 2 diabetic patients,” he said. “We’ve also been a leader in development of medications for type 2 diabetes.”

Dr. DeFronzo directed the multicenter trials that eventually led to the approval of metformin (glucophage) in the U.S. Faculty also have been instrumental in the development of the thiazolidinedione class of drugs, as well as exenatide (marketed as Byetta), a medication derived from Gila monster saliva. Exenatide recently gained U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.


Daniel Carlisle, M.D., assistant professor and deputy chairman of the department of orthopaedics, commenting on behalf of Professor and Chairman Ronald Williams, M.D., Ph.D., said the No. 49 ranking in orthopaedics is a tribute in part to a high-quality residency program that is well known among the country’s graduating medical students entering the field. The department continues to advance the art of orthopaedic surgery through basic science and clinical research, and provides outstanding care to the residents of South Texas, Dr. Carlisle said.

Faculty strengths include orthopaedic trauma surgery, hand surgery and shoulder surgery. Dr. Williams serves as the only orthopaedic oncologist in the San Antonio area and large portions of South and West Texas.

The University of Chicago created the model for ranking America’s Best Hospitals in 1993 for U.S. News. Log on to for more information.

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