Most Midwestern cities base much of their economic futures on health care. Big cities and small, having lost much of their industry, are looking to their hospitals, medical schools, health researchers and clinics to provide jobs and income.
So far, we don't know if there's going to be enough sick people to keep a whole region afloat. But if health care really is the wave of the economic future, the Midwest is well-placed to take advantage of it.
That's the message from U.S. News and World Report, which is best known for ranking colleges and universities but does the same for hospitals and other institutions. The latest ranking, just out, endorses what Midwesterners have always claimed, that the region has some of the best hospitals in the nation.
The magazine ranked the 17 best hospitals in the nation on a number of indicators. Mostly, it said, top ranking went to "medical centers that demonstrate unusually high expertise across multiple specialties, scoring at or near the top in at least six of 16 specialties."
Of the 17, five were in the Midwest, more than in any other region. They include the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. (#3), the Cleveland Clinic (#4), Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington University in St. Louis (#11), UPMC-University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (#12), and the University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers in Ann Arbor (#14).
Four of the hospitals were in the East, including the top hospital, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. Four were in the Pacific region, two in New England (including the #2 hospital, Massachusetts General), and two in the South.
U.S. News also ranked the 11 best children's hospitals and, once again, the Midwest did well. The top hospital was Children's Hospital in Baltimore. After that, the Midwest, East and West each had three of the best. In the Midwest, these were Cincinnati Children's Hospital (#3), Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, and St. Louis Children's Hospital/Washington University.
Like the university rankings, these listings are arbitrary and open to dispute, which they get. Ranking scientific establishments is a very unscientific business. Hospitals everywhere will argue that they're best in one area of care or another, or superior in many areas, and deserve to be on the list. Chicago's big hospitals, which spend time and money advertising themselves, are conspicuous by their absence.
But still, if the listing does nothing for Chicago's ego, it demonstrates that the Midwest has some fine regional strengths and assets. These hospitals are research centers, as well as care centers. If medical care and research, including bioscience and biomedicine, are going to help carry the Midwest into the global future, all-star institutions like Mayo and Cleveland are leading the way, and deserve a tip of the hat.