USF's CAMLS working to make economic impact in downtown Tampa

CAMLS spent $4.5-million to get off ground

TAMPA - There are helicopters and Humvees in a downtown Tampa operating room.

"We want to replicate what they would see when they go to Afghanistan," said Paul Ayres, Director USF Health CAMLS Marketing.

The trauma O.R. inside USF's new start-up called CAMLS, or Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation, trains surgeons to operate in a war zone.

Those doctors are starting to make an economic impact.

"They fly in from around the world. They stay in local hotels. They use local restaurants. The average learner spends about $106 a day in the city of Tampa," said Dr. Deborah Sutherland, CEO CAMLS.

The CAMLS economic engine is churning, but hasn't quite combusted.

CAMLS spent $4.5-million in its first seven months, but is operating with a low-occupancy rate.

Not unusual for a first-year start-up, says USF health, which engineered the business model.

But there are promising signs of progress.

"This morning we had a live operation. I just finished a couple of hours ago," said Dr. Christiano Caldeira, Director of Tampa General's Heart and Lung Transplant Center.

Caldeira showed 200 surgeons visiting from Brazil a cutting-edge heart transplant procedure.

"Our goal is for Tampa to be the major port of entry to South American countries instead of going to Orlando, going to Miami," he said.

Dr. Caldeira says the spotlight on Tampa General means better patient care and attracts intellectual talent to Tampa Bay.

It also fills hotel rooms in downtown like the Hyatt Embassy Suites and Marriott Waterside.

The mayor hopes one day CAMLS will mean more.

"The economic impact is huge but the longer term impact of creating that medical cluster in downtown has the potential to create new companies, new jobs," said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

So far 2,400 learners have trained here. CAMLS is shooting for 30,000 a year.

Each doctor is an economic multiplier.

"People say 'where were you trained?' You know what I mean, and they say, 'I trained in Tampa,'" said Caldeira.

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