Regional One CEO presents vision to Shelby County leaders

By , Daily Memphian Updated: June 02, 2023 1:24 PM CT | Published: June 01, 2023 6:06 PM CT

Regional One President and CEO Dr. Reginald Coopwood presented his vision of transforming the hospital into a renowned academic medical center to city and county leaders during a meeting at the Agricenter Thursday, June 1. 

The meeting of the Shelby County Joint Economic and Community Development Board included representatives of the county’s suburban mayoral administrations, local business chambers and entities like the Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis and Shelby County and the Downtown Memphis Commission. 

“For many, many months, (we’ve been) working hard on trying to galvanize community support, particularly county commissioners' support, for a plan to invest in a new Regional One campus,” said Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, who has been using social media to garner support for a transformation of Regional One Health, in introducing Coopwood. 

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Coopwood first arrived in Memphis in 2010 to take the helm of the hospital, then known as the Regional Medical Center, or The Med. 

He said the hospital today has oncology services and a highly-ranked vascular program, and is focused on strategic growth in areas such as cardiac surgery, ocular surgery and ortho-neuro medicine. 

In addition, Regional One Health has recruited top talent from academic medical centers such as Tufts Medical Center in Boston and Tulane University Health System in New Orleans. 

“Now, we’re having elective surgeries done at the hospital, whereas in 2010 that wasn’t something,” he said. “It was strictly trauma and burn and high-risk OB. So, that’s where we find ourselves today.” 

But, Coopwood said, Regional One Health’s aging infrastructure does not match the quality of care the hospital provides. 

“We focused on infrastructure management, focused on people, and we focused on physician investments,” he said. “Over the course of these 13 years, we’ve put almost $249 million of capital — capital that we earned through the work that we do in taking care of patients — back into the facility, renovating and growing the facility. But again, we’re dealing with a facility that is extremely old, so it was putting paint and plaster on top of the old.”

Coopwood said A2H, a Lakeland-based firm that provides architecture and engineering services, provided a facility assessment of Regional One Health that looked at its building conditions and seismic risk. 

The cost to use Regional One’s existing building is $1.1 billion — $295 million more than the cost of replacing the hospital, which is $820 million, according to the assessment. 

“If you don’t do anything, that doesn’t mean you won’t have to continue to invest in old infrastructure,” Coopwood said. “So saying no is saying yes to continued influx of revenue of tax dollars into an old facility.” 

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Coopwood said a partnership with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center to create an academic medical center would allow the State of Tennessee to invest in Regional One Health as its co-owner. 

Officials envision the new entity — the name UT Health is being floated — as a hub of innovation that would attract top medical talent, grow research opportunities and offer new therapies, specialized surgeries and access to clinical trials.

Coopwood said an academic medical center also has the potential to bring new economic investments to all of Shelby County. 

“If nothing else, in the county we need a new hospital in order to take care of the increasing and growing trauma and things in this community,” he said. “But I think doing it the right way — to better leverage what we have with the medical school, with the hospital, the facilities and the doctors — to actually grow the economics of this community and the reputation of this community.” 

The first step toward that partnership involves the creation of an academic health authority. 

On Monday, June 5, the Shelby County Commission will vote on the final budget, and revenue from a proposed wheel tax increase could finance the county’s funding for the project.

“That’s our next step after Monday’s vote that we hope will be positive — we’ll start creating that, and then starting to have conversations with the state,” Coopwood said. “The mayor’s office had conversations with the state, our team has had conversations with the state. They’re very aware of what the proposal is … they’re really just kind of waiting for step one to happen, step two to happen to create the legal infrastructure.” 

Former Republican Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland represented Millington Mayor Terry Jones at Thursday’s meeting.

Roland said that during his tenure as a county commissioner, the commission chose to invest in Electrolux and Mitsubishi — both of which have since left the area — instead of the county’s public hospital. 

“If we’d have put that money into the hospital, we’d have been better off,” Roland said. 

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Shelby County Commissioner Charlie Caswell represents District 6, which includes Bartlett Woods, Old Bartlett Park and parts of Berclair and Frayser among other neighborhoods.

“Regional One serves all of Shelby County and all of this region,” he said. “So to be able to see how others understand the impact that this can have for us as a county, especially becoming an academic hospital, I think would be a great opportunity for us.”


Regional One Health Dr. Reginald Coopwood Mayor Lee Harris UTHSC Charlie Caswell Terry Roland
Aisling Mäki

Aisling Mäki

Aisling Mäki has spent the better part of two decades writing about Memphis. A former digital journalist for WMC Action News 5 and staff reporter for Memphis Daily News, her work has also appeared in The Commercial Appeal, High Ground News, I Love Memphis, Inside Memphis Business, The Memphis Flyer, Memphis Parent, Memphis Magazine and Tri-State Defender. 


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