Before Dr. Joseph Halton built the county’s first medical center in 1921, doctors who served Sarasota performed surgery on back porches or kitchen tables by light of lanterns.
Rudimentary instruments consisted of folding metal pieces tucked inside wooden boxes and contraptions that seemed inspired by a Jules Verne novel. Since antibiotics did not appear until the 1930s, homeopathy was big business, with many remedies grown in kitchen gardens or culled from wild pastures.
Today, Sarasota County boasts 1,049 medical doctors (plus nearly 100 physicians’ assistants), 88 osteopaths and nearly 7,000 licensed practical and registered nurses. More than 400 pharmacists fill our prescriptions, while 292 dentists attend to our choppers and 40 podiatrists pamper our stompers.
Sarasota is home to the East West College of Natural Medicine, one of the nation’s foremost colleges of acupuncture, which offers master’s-level education; and the Quantum Wellness Center, which treats stress reduction through vibration medicine based on quantum physics. More than 100 licensed acupuncturists practice here, along with 151 chiropractors and 917 massage therapists.
Doctors Hospital has 562 physicians on staff, says CEO Doug Luckett, adding that larger hospitals with 300 to 400 beds frequently have fewer than 300 doctors on staff. "Every day we get calls from recruiters looking to place doctors here," he says. "The area kind of recruits itself."
In addition to attracting doctors from major teaching hospitals across the country, both Sarasota Memorial and Doctors Hospital have residents from South Africa, India, Argentina, Poland and Italy. They’re drawn to the resort lifestyle and state-of-the-art technology, says Sarasota Memorial Hospital’s physician liaison Sunny Olsen.
Olsen, who conducts tours for visiting overseas physicians, recalls astounding a group of Hungarian physicians with the hospital’s MRI department. "They believed we were describing the number of MRI units for the entire state," says Olsen. She had to convince them they were looking only at one hospital’s equipment. "They have two MRIs for all of Budapest."
Every year, local doctors and medical facilities participate in drug trials alongside such esteemed institutions as Duke University, Emory University, the Cleveland Clinic, Harvard University and Johns Hopkins, creating drugs that bring hope for cures of chronic disease.
Here’s a brief look at what Sarasotaa’s medical community has to offer. Keep it handy for the next time you need to call for help.
Along with the excellent hospital cancer programs, Radiation Oncology Centers and 21st Century Oncology are two of the Florida West Coast’s largest freestanding radiation treatment facilities. The Wellness Community of Southwest Florida provides psychological support and education, group therapy and mental health assistance for cancer patients and their family members. The Wellness Community of Southwest Florida, 3900 Clark Road, Building P-3, Sarasota, Florida 34233, (941) 921-5539; www.wellness-swfl.org. Radiation Oncology Center, 3663 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota, FL 34233, (941) 924-8700; www.radonc.net. 21st Century Oncology, 3210 Fruitville Road, Sarasota, FL 34237, (941) 364-8887.
As more young professionals choose to raise their families in Sarasota, pediatrics is emerging as an important specialty. Just 40 minutes to the north in St. Petersburg, All Children’s Hospital is a leader in research and treatment of pediatric cancer. Its Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Program is one of the largest children’s cancer programs in the southeastern United States. In association with Sarasota Memorial Hospital, All Children’s opened a specialty care clinic in Sarasota. Rand Boulevard, (941) 927-8805.
A network of organizations provides programs, services and support to adults and children with developmental disabilities. Among them are United Cerebral Palsy (941) 957-3599, Easter Seals (941) 355-7637, Lou Gehrig’s Disease Association (941) 955-4771, Manasota Association for Retarded Citizens, (941) 752-2976, and Suncoast Center for Independent Living (941) 351-9545.
Along with a local branch of Self Help for Hard of Hearing People (SHHH), Sarasota boasts one of the nation’s premier hearing facilities. The state-of-the-art Silverstein Institute offers diagnosis, testing, treatment and a full range of hearing aids. Its founder, Dr. Herbert Silverstein, is considered a leading authority on Meniere’s and balance diseases and has invented several implants in wide use today. SHHH (941) 952-9011, Silverstein Institute (941) 366-9222.
Hospice of Southwest Florida offers total end-of-life support for patients and families in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties. 5955 Rand Blvd., Sarasota, FL 34238, (941) 929-2302.
Sarasota Memorial Florida’s second-largest public acute-care hospital was recently ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the country’s best in heart surgery, orthopedics, cancer care, digestive disorders, urology, geriatrics and ear, nose and throat. Last year, the hospital was a Solucient Top 100 Hospital and one of Solucient’s top 100 cardiovascular hospitals. A Money Magazine special report named it one of the nation’s best hospitals for congestive heart failure and heart attack treatment. It also received Magnet Nursing Services recognition, the nation’s highest honor for excellence in nursing, and is accredited by the American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer. 1700 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL, (941) 917-9000, www.smh.com.
Doctors Hospital Doctors’ 168-bed acute and general care hospital offers oncology, orthopedics, neurological services and a wound-care center. It is accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) and certified by the College of American Pathologists and the American Association of Blood Banks. Like Sarasota Memorial, its cancer care program is one of only 1,400 facilities in the country to be approved through the American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer. 5731 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota, FL 34233, (941) 342-1100, www.doctorsofsarasota.com.
Englewood Community Hospital This acute-care hospital is one of five facilities in Florida and the only one in Sarasota County accredited by the Society of Chest Pain Centers. A healthcare industry study named Englewood Community Hospital one of the nation’s top 100 hospitals for excellence in quality of care, efficiency of operations and sustainability of overall performance. It ranked fourth in employee satisfaction among its parent company’s 180 hospitals, and offers a 24/7 nurse hotline (473-3919 or toll-free 888-685-1598) for urgent care questions. 700 Medical Blvd., Englewood, FL 34223, (941) 475-6571, www.englewoodcommhospital.com.
Healthsouth Rehabilitation – Every major hospital offers both in- and outpatient rehabilitation departments. HealthSouth Rehabilitation is a freestanding, 76-bed hospital that offers individualized medical and therapeutic services tailored to patients and clinics for those suffering from multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, muscular dystrophy, stroke and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). 3251 Proctor Road, Sarasota, FL (941) 921-8600.
Bon Secours Venice Hospital Among the top 100 stroke hospitals in the country, this 342-bed hospital offers specialized cardiac care, accredited cancer services, a complete surgical program and comprehensive rehabilitation programs. It has one of the top 100 orthopedics departments in the country, especially lauded for knee replacement and fracture repair. 540 The Rialto, Venice, FL 34285, (941) 485-7711, www.bonsecours.org/venice/.
Manatee Memorial Hospital This 491-bed acute-care facility is another Solucient Top 100 hospital. Membership in its Senior Advantage Program provides medical prescription discounts, discounts for vision care, eyeglasses and hearing devices and discounted admission to water aerobics. Manatee Memorial has one of two hospital obstetrics units operating in Manatee County. 206 Second St. E., Bradenton, FL 34208, (941) 746-5111, www.manateememorial.com.
Blake Medical Center This summer, the 383-bed acute-care hospital began an ambitious $45-million surgery expansion that will include 10 new operating suites and a renovated endoscopy suite, post-anesthesia care unit, outpatient surgery, pharmacy and other support services. In conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency, the project has been designated a "green building" site, which means it will be energy and water efficient and will use recycled building materials. 2020 59th St. W., Bradenton, FL 34209, (941) 792-6611, www.blakemedicalcenter.com.
Lakewood Ranch Medical Center This new, full-service, 120-bed sister hospital to Manatee Memorial is located on 30 acres in the Town Center in Lakewood Ranch. It offers private rooms, critical care services and surgical and radiology services. It hosts the only other obstetrics unit in Manatee County, with a Women’s Service Center and a complete birthing center. 8330 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., Bradenton, FL 34202, (941) 782-2124, www.lakewoodranchmedicalcenter.com.
The Heart & Vascular Center of Venice provides echocardiography, a pacemaker clinic, heart catheterization, angiography and a complete cardiac rehab program. It recently joined a five-year, $30-million project funded by the National Institutes of Health to study the effects of chelation on heart disease. 1287 U.S. 41 Bypass S., Venice, FL 34292, (941) 497-5511.
The Dattoli Cancer Center pioneered many of the innovations associated with modern prostate brachytherapy; patients travel from around the world seeking treatment at what has become the country’s largest brachytherapy program. Radiation Oncology Centers offered the first prostate seed implant therapy here nearly 30 years ago and continues to participate in the research and development of cancer treatments. The Sarasota Prostate Cancer Support Group meets monthly at Sarasota Memorial Hospital (for info call 488-2166). Dattoli Cancer Center, 2803 Fruitville Road, Sarasota, Florida 34237, (941) 957-1221, www.datolli.com. Radiation Oncology Center, 3663 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota, FL 34233, (941) 924-8700, www.radonc.net.
Licensed Marriage/Family Therapists.33
Licensed Clinical Social Workers….194
Licensed Mental Health Counselors..177
Many of the county’s health services, like Samaritan Counseling Services of the Gulf Coast (926-2959), are free or low-cost to those in need. Coastal Behavioral Healthcare (927-8990) provides more than 50 substance abuse and mental health prevention, intervention and treatment programs. Organizations like Charis Center (378-1549), Mental Health Community Centers (953-3477), and Florida Center for Child and Family Development (371-8820) provide counseling to all ages.
Ten licensed electrologists and numerous licensed aestheticians service the area’s skin care centers, and Sarasota is blessed with board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeons. To locate a qualified surgeon here, visit the Web sites of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (www.plasticsurgery.org), the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (www.surgery.org), or the American Board of Medical Specialties (www.abms.org).
Sarasota has a number of assisted living facilities. There are luxury comminities, and many agencies offer health services to disadvantaged citizens and those on fixed incomes as well. Many, like Kobernick House/Anchin Pavilion, offer specialized for care for those suffering dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Senior Friendship Center offers free and low-cost medical and dental services, adult day care, home meal deliveries and a campus where those 50 and over can interact and learn coping abilities to maintain an interested and independent life. It also provides referrals for caregivers who are caring for older adults. Senior Friendship Center, 1888 Brother Geenen Way, Sarasota, FL 34236 (941) 955-2122, www.seniorfriendship.com. Kobernick House/Anchin Pavilion, 1959 N. Honore Ave., Sarasota, FL 34235 (941) 379-3553.
Ophthalmologists like Harry Grabow of Sarasota Cataract & Laser Institute (941) 921-7744, David Shoemaker of Center for Sight (941) 925-2020, and Keye Wong of Sarasota Retina Institute (941) 921-5335 all participate in clinical trials investigating new products, lecture worldwide and host other physicians who travel here to learn their techniques. The area also boasts plentiful services for the visually impaired, including Mana-Sota Lighthouse for the Blind and Southeastern Guide Dogs, which breeds and trains dogs at no cost to recipients. Manasota Lighthouse for the Blind, 7319 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, Fl 34243, (941) 359-1404. Southeastern Guide Dogs, 4210 77th St. E., Palmetto, FL 34221, (941) 729-5665, www.guidedogs.org.
Sarasota Memorial Hospital holds the county’s only hospital obstetrics ward. In addition to having on staff Dr. Washington Hill, a neonatologist who specializes in high-risk pregnancies, the department is equipped with 4-D (dimensional) ultrasound to detect fetal abnormalities in utero. The county also has alternative birthing care options. At the new Rosemary Birthing Home, midwives oversee water births, home births, aquanatal classes and breast feeding support. Sarasota Memorial’s digital mammography is available at four different locations in Osprey, University Parkway, midtown and downtown. Planned Parenthood also has an office here. Rosemary Birthing Home, 800 Central Ave., Sarasota, FL 34236, (941) 330-9966. Planned Parenthood, 2055 Wood St., Suite 110, Sarasota, FL 34237, (941) 957-1050.
Look for a new hospital in February from HealthSouth Rehabilitation. HealthSouth RidgeLake Hospital will be a 40-bed freestanding specialty services hospital that will encompass 43,000 square feet just east of I-75 on Bee Ridge Road
HealthSouth CEO Margaret Holloway says the new facility will target patients with head and spinal cord injuries, amputees, trauma and cardiovascular diseases or other patients who require a combination of complex medical treatment and rehabilitation. The plan to treat them so they can move to outpatient facilities sooner and with a greater degree of healing.
"They’re people who require a higher level of nursing care than they’d ordinarily receive in a hospital," adds public relations coordinator Nancy Heilscher. "There is not one like it on the Florida West Coast."
Upon completion, the hospital will offer 16 semi-private and eight private rooms. Its location on I-75 will make it accessible from Tampa to points south of Englewood.