The Wexner Medical Center Board of Trustees approve more than $50 million in new funds. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Managing Editor for Multimedia

The Wexner Medical Center Board of Trustees approved more than $50 million in new funds for construction and announced 10s of millions in new donations Wednesday.

The Board held its quarterly meeting at the Longaberger Alumni House, which consisted of a 51-minute public session and an almost three-hour closed executive session. During the public session, the Board listened to a presentation on infant mortality in Columbus, Ohio, voted on financial matters and bylaws, and presented on the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State’s current financial status.

$29.2 million was approved as an addition to the existing construction project to build a new inpatient tower at the medical center. Another $20.2 million was approved for additional funding for the planned design and construction of a parking garage adjacent to the soon-to-be ambulatory facility on Kenny Road and Carmack Road. The requests were presented by David McQuaid, chief operating officer of the medical center and CEO of Ohio State Health Systems.

$23.2 million of new donations for cancer research from the August Pelotonia biking fundraiser was announced. Another $10 million was donated to the newly planned Interdisciplinary Research Facility on West Campus that will, in part, research atrial fibrillation. This donation, along with another $5 million from earlier this spring, is from Joe and Linda Chlapaty. 

 “Joe is one of those patients [with atrial fibrillation],” Dr. Hal Paz, CEO of the medical center, said. “He’s told me that the care he’s received at Ohio State is a major reason why he wanted to give back.” 

In addition to the discussion of new funds, Drs. Mark Landon and. Cynthia Shellhaas gave a presentation on Franklin County’s higher-than-average infant mortality rate — the number of deaths under one-year-of-age per 1,000 live births.

“Most disturbing is the two- to three-fold increase rate of infant mortality in babies of African American women,” Landon said. “It is now well accepted that this racial disparity can be largely explained by social determinants of health, including housing and food concerns as well as overall poverty and inherent stress.”

The Greater Columbus Infant Mortality Task Force, formed in 2014 by then-Columbus City Council President Andrew Ginther, set goals to cut infant mortality by 40 percent and racial disparities in half by 2020.

According to data provided in Wednesday’s presentation, Franklin County is close to reaching its 40 percent goal; the rate has decreased from 8.4 in 2014 to 5.9 in 2019. While the black infant mortality rate has fallen by close to one-third since 2014, the mortality rate for black infants, at 10.6, is still more than three times higher than the rate for white infants, at 2.8.

Shellhaas detailed the work done by Ohio State, including the Moms2B program, which is described as “a community-wide comprehensive prenatal and first-year-of-life program.”

Landon said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has become increasingly interested in and supportive of the program.

The Board also announced that the university is close to purchasing the five-story building in which the Eye and Ear Institute is currently located for $43 million. Ohio State had been leasing the building since 2008 and exercised an option to buy the facility on Dec. 20, 2018. The Board said it expects to close on the deal before the end of 2019.

The Board voted unanimously to amend its bylaws to remove the positions of ex officio nonvoting members. Under previously approved bylaws, the Board consisted of nonvoting members put in place by their job titles, such as College of Medicine dean. With the vote passing, the bylaws will be voted on by the Talent, Compensation, and Governance Committee Wednesday afternoon, followed by a full Board of Trustees vote Thursday.