Neurosurgeon Jawad Shah arrived in the economically depressed city of Flint, MI, nearly two decades ago after advanced brain stem surgical training at the University of Arkansas Hospital. He developed a thriving practice and by 2008, purchased an old General Motors World War II manufacturing plant from a land bank. Thereafter, Shah transformed the building into an integrated neurosurgery center combining practice, technology with research and integrated care. Where should medicine go in America in the decade of 2020 and beyond—perhaps the answer lies in Flint, Michigan. This fascinating dynamic and important experiment in the old-industrial heartland of America is planting the seeds for a dynamic new community health and research reality in what was a city written off by many. In an age where mega-health systems gobble up health assets to control as much market as possible (creating bureaucracy and unhappy doctors in the process), perhaps the Insight Institute of Neurosurgery and Neurosciences points to a more community-based, patient-centric and physician-empowered driven future.
The Big Picture
Neurosurgeon Shah invested where many others long ago left. Flint, Michigan a small city of about 95,000 people used to be a major manufacturing hub. Located 66 miles from Detroit (a much bigger city with a similar story) it lies in a region of Michigan with nearly 5 million people. Location for the film Roger & Me, the Michael Moore film classic, commenting on the social ills that resulted from industrial flight from the American heartland, it also was the tragic center of the water crisis of 2015. But for every crisis and loss there exists the opportunity to make something anew—to capitalize on all the positive attributes that made it a major center of years past.
Called the Insight Institute of Neurosurgery and Neurosciences or Insight, it all started when the neurosurgeon purchased 600,000 square-feet of the 1.2 million square-foot former General Motors manufacturing plant complex. As reported in Crain’s Detroit Business by Jay Greene, Shah recalled it was “too big” and actually “crazy” as the physician contemplated actually buying the massive complex from a land bank back in 2008. He moved forward and, in the process, “My idea became much bigger,” Mr. Greene reports.
Shah bought the two main buildings on the complex totaling 600,000 massive square feet which organically extended his vision for the future—an integrated neurosurgery practice incorporating many support and ancillary services for neurosciences and orthopedics. By the end of 2008, Shah moved his practice in and had already rented office space to professional offices and some businesses.
An integrated community provider combining holistic health services, wellness center, pain management and medical research all in one center in a community reeling from neglect with the flight of manufacturing to either the Southern U.S. or globalization.
A Decade of Growth
In just the past 11 years, Shah founded health-related enterprises that organically integrated with the center that now included three neurosurgeons, an orthopedic surgeon, four nurse practitioners and 350 employees total at Insight. Shah expects to hire at least another 100 this year alone. He has added an 18-bed rehabilitation healing center for injured auto patients, imaging center, pain and addition management, comprehensive therapy, chiropractic care and wellness center. Shah has tapped into the entrepreneurial spirit of America with the touch of a doctor putting patient services and healthcare above the rest. He set up a business incubator that would help entrepreneurs capitalize on health opportunity by serving the community.
Insight grew in just the last three years from 1,183 to 1,351 surgeries managing 7,228 follow-up office visits last year from 5,917 in 2017. Shah and his physician associates have admitting privileges and share emergency on-call coverage with multiple provider partnerships in the region from McLaren Flint Hospital and Hurley Medical Center to Ascension Genesys Hospital for seriously injured patients.
In the process, many of the services Insight outsourced, from lab services and radiology to pain management and rehabilitation, according to chief strategy officer Atif Bawahab, they in-sourced as many that made sense so that they can offer a one-stop health shopping hub; community-based and patient-centric.
The New Midwest: Medical Research & Innovation
Shah, understanding the rapidly evolving clinical research as a care option movement, Shah inked a partnership with Michigan State University to conduct bioethics research as well as establishing Insight as a medical research center. Insight set up the Insight Research Institute, which sponsors a number of medical research projects and as Shah highlights to Greene of Crain’s Detroit Business, “We want to help people. That is my main mission. We’re definitely deep into the research space and I’m very excited because we were awarded a patent for a project that we’ve worked on for years,” which focuses on an artificial spinal cord. This invention, a motor device for stimulating muscles, involves electric current movement and manipulation of the spinal cord to help with movement.
The technology centers on “The Chelsea Project” involving a patient paralyzed from an auto accident. With the experimental implant, the neurosurgeon can now “control her muscle extremities” with an ultimate goal of connecting the brain to the device so patients can control their own movements. The next step Shah is forecasting FDA compliant clinical trials. Insight’s research director Abeer Al-Gharaibeh, MD highlights the importance of combining patient care with research educational opportunities for medical students and a hub for innovation with other physicians and scientists.
Moreover, the Insight business incubator now offers entrepreneurs a dynamic hub to incubate promising new clinical research organizations.
Local community leaders have emphasized that Shah, although not only a top-rated neurosurgeon and also a serious entrepreneur and business person, puts the community at the center—community and civic development underlies the trajectory of this growth and in a way brings America back to a past where in communities across the country residents and their provider care were community centered. This isn’t always the case with massive health system conglomerates that gobble up health assets more akin to a game of monopoly than a true local, patent-centered and patient-minded service by local providers that seek organic growth over monopolistic growth trajectories.
This makes a difference in a depressed Midwestern city such as Flint, MI that was hit hard by a confluence of forces from the flight of the auto industry to a variety of social and environmental challenges such as the water crisis. Shah understands that social determinants of health are powerful underlying forces hence he acquired the Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village, a youth center and day camp with after-school academic and athletic programs where he serves as chairman. On these moves local congressman Dan Kildee mentioned Shah “is changing the trajectory in the lives of these kids that are really profound,” concluding, “He sets a really good example for being the ultimate citizen.”
Call to Action: Those seeking to explore similar integrated healthcare, research and community integrated business models should consider connecting with Dr. Shah. Biopharmaceutical and medical device companies could benefit by partnering as Insight could become a serious regional site for clinical research offering even more advanced clinical research as care option alternatives for those in need. Follow the source to read the entire article authored by Jay Greene with Crain’s Detroit Business. Contact information is here.