Beginnings and Endings: Reflections on the SWMD   

This month we take a pause from our normal routine, a departure from usual topics and featured articles to reflect on days gone by and days to come. The SWMD is in the midst of great change, change that will usher in new opportunities for innovation and growth, pave the way for new experiences for generations of healthcare providers and patients, and create a tapestry of beautiful and healthy greenspaces for the Dallas community. With a nod toward these looming changes, the September newsletter is dedicated to remembering the past and embracing new beginnings.  

Next month demolition of the “old” Parkland will commence. And with it, a bounty of stories, both told and untold, will be transformed into the recesses of personal memories and into the back pages of history books. It’s a site where the profound and the mundane have coexisted effortlessly for more than six decades. It’s the place where President John F. Kennedy died, the place where many thousands of  babies have been born, the place where ghosts roamed seamlessly throughout the cavernous underbelly of the hospital.  Ask any intern or resident who has made the late night on-call trek from the med school to Children’s via the bowels of “old” Parkland, zig zagging through dimly lit, unmarked passageways, scurrying past abandoned hospital beds and empty incubators, guided solely by the sights and sounds of slamming metal doors and sticky footprints! It was a true rite of passage.  

This demolition is tethered to a string of new beginnings and new visions, the opening of the O’Donnell School of Public Health, the impending streetscape and park transformation along Harry Hines, and institutional collaborations to build healthy, green spaces for living and working in the district. Originally developed as an industrial center on the periphery of a nascent city, the SWMD eventually became home to a world-renowned medical center with a need to accommodate ambulances and patients rather than freight trucks and cargo. And in the process, it also unwittingly became an urban heat island, the epicenter for some of the most extreme heat temperatures recorded in the entire country and a problem that can only now be mitigated and ameliorated through nature. Such is the footprint of time.   

As we move forward in step with the inevitable rhythm of time and change, it seems appropriate, perhaps even destined, to reflect on the sage words of Seneca, the Roman philosopher and satirist, who nearly 2,000 years ago observed that “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”         

Rose Jones, PhD
Research & Strategy in Urban Green Health

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