Christie and Mike Kircher hold their sons — Grady, Luke and Wyatt — in one of the spacious, private rooms within Jacob Medical Center’s Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Photo by Erik Jepsen, UC San Diego Publications
The Kircher triplets — Grady, Luke and Wyatt — were born prematurely at 28 weeks, each weighing less than three pounds. The siblings, now thriving at home, were among the first to receive care at Jacobs Medical Center at UC San Diego Health, a newly opened advanced specialty hospital that includes a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for premature and critically ill infants, like the triplets.
The La Jolla hospital, which opened in November after more than a decade of planning and construction, ushers in a new era in specialty inpatient care in San Diego — one that combines the highest-quality advanced care with upscale amenities, carefully chosen to comfort and heal.
The triplets’ mother, Christie Kircher, who made daily visits to UC San Diego Health for 12 weeks, noted the spacious private rooms that allowed her to stay the night if needed and complimentary room service meals as amenities that made a difference.
“I could go back for the risotto alone,” she said. “Mostly, of course, it is the medical care that sets the hospital apart. We knew we were getting the very best care,” said Kircher, a Carlsbad resident.
Patty Maysent, CEO of UC San Diego Health, described the new hospital as showcasing the strengths of academic medicine. “What you hear people say is that they knew we provided world-class care, but now we have the facility to match it,” Maysent said. “There is a sense of pride in what we are able to do here.”
Named in honor of Joan and Irwin Jacobs, who donated $100 million to help build the hospital, Jacobs Medical Center focuses on three key areas of medicine:
Advanced surgical care: 14 surgical suites designed with input from UC San Diego’s Center for the Future of Surgery, facilitates complex surgeries, such as MRI-guided gene therapy for brain cancer, spine and joint reconstruction and delicate microsurgery to restore voice and hearing.
Cancer care: 108 of the hospital’s 245 beds are dedicated to caring for individuals with any kind of malignancy. A special blood and marrow transplant (BMT) unit features a full-floor aseptic air filtration system that gives patients freedom of movement to leave their room, walk around and work out in a special gym.
High-risk obstetrics and neonatal care: The top three floors of the hospital (along with its most sweeping views) offer care for every kind of birth and includes a Birth Center with hydrotherapy staffed by midwives, labor and deliver and a 52-bed NICU with private rooms.
Besides advancing specialty inpatient services, the new hospital emphasizes many intangibles of patient care — from beauty of the space to connectedness with care teams.
“Jacobs Medical Center sets the frame for our patients’ experience, their families’ experience and the experience for faculty and staff,” said Maysent.
All patient rooms in the hospital are private, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a “smart” bed oriented for the best views of the surrounding La Jolla/UTC area. Each room also has its own dedicated iPad that lets patients control their climate and lighting, access their medical charts and watch entertainment on an Apple TV. There are family areas with lounges and kitchenettes on every patient floor and a fold-out bed in each patient room.
Bringing the family into the care environment is especially important for infants in the NICU. “We know the best medicine for infants is the voice and touch of their parents,” said Maysent.
Kircher agreed and said that the nurses stressed the importance of skin-to-skin contact early on. “The nurses would tell us: ‘This is what the baby wants. It is important for the baby to have you touch them even with the tubes and wires.’”
She also noted the therapeutic value of the family lounge. “We had privacy when we wanted it and we had a chance to share with other families going through the same experience. It really bonds you to talk with others who can relate.”
In some parts of the facility, you may forget you are in a hospital altogether. Long-time university benefactor, Joan Jacobs, and Kathryn Kanjo, CEO of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, have assembled a museum-quality therapeutic art collection, with more than 150 paintings, drawings, sculptures, a tapestry and photographs placed throughout the hospital. The cafeteria sports a healthy salad bar, with lots of locally sourced produce and patients can order meals from a customizable restaurant-style menu. Multiple landscaped courtyards and terrace gardens further add to the upscale ambiance.
Maysent wants the community to know that Jacobs Medical Center has been opened in part to serve as a referral center for those who need highly specialized care.
“Individuals don’t have to have a UC San Diego Health primary care physician to receive care at the specialty care centers. Jacobs Medical Center is a state-of-the art resource for the entire community of San Diego and beyond,” Maysent said.
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Pregnancy and Childbirth