Quality of life is a function of many complex factors, but health care is certainly among the most important. Baltimore is unusually fortunate in this regard -- the health care industry is not only the largest employer in the region, but the area's medical facilities have always been considered outstanding as well.
That conclusion was reconfirmed this week by a survey published in "U.S. News & World Report," which ranked Johns Hopkins Hospital as the best hospital, overall, in the nation.
The study, conducted by the National Opinion Research Center, was particularly significant because physicians themselves, rather than bureaucrats, served as the evaluators. Nearly 1,000 doctors, specializing in 15 areas of medicine -- from AIDS and cancer treatment to neurology, cardiology, opthalmology and psychiatry -- were asked to list the five leading hospitals in their specialties. Hopkins emerged among the best in 13 of the 15 areas -- making it No. 1 in the nation, all told.
Part of the explanation for Hopkins' distinction lies in the institution's long history of dedication to excellence in research and practice; partly it results from the fact that Hopkins is not merely a hospital. Its medical school is located here as well, and many of the physicians it trains stay in Baltimore, and with Hopkins, for the duration of their careers. They choose to do so primarily to remain affiliated with a first-rate medical facility. And so the process becomes, in effect, self-sustaining.
One result is that Hopkins draws people with complex medical problems from all over the country, which pumps a significant amount of revenue into the local economy. More important, perhaps, Hopkins' preeminence is a reassurance to area residents that, should they need medical help, they will have access to best care available. That, in evaluating the overall quality of life here, is surely no small thing.