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By PHYLLIS McLAUGHLIN
As a surgeon, Dr. Dan Mongiardo was used to the pressure of making critical decisions when crises arose in an emergency room or trauma center.
As Kentucky’s lieutenant govener, Mongiardo is embracing the state’s – and the nation’s – current economic crisis as an opportunity for major change.
Mongiardo was in Carrollton on Friday to give the keynote address at the Carroll County Industrial Expo at the Conference Center at General Butler State Resort Park.
The expo, sponsored by the Carroll County Community Development Corporation, featured booths set up by 31 businesses that provide services and materials to the industries in the county.
About 93 people attended the luncheon, at which the lieutenant governor spoke, said CCCDC Executive Director Joan Moore.
Speaking to reresentatives of the county’s industrial base – Dow-Corning, North American Stainless, Gallatin Steel and others – as well as the dozens of other businesses that supply labor or materials to those industreis, Mongiardo said the state needs to focus on early childhood education, improving health care and developing itself as a destination for “adventure tourism.”
Mongiardo said children as young as 3 would benefit from classroom instruction. Starting children in school sooner can improve test scores and help them live better, healthier lives.
Mongiardo said Kentucky is poised to become a research center that could be crucial in restructuring the health care industry. He said the University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville and Northern Kentucky University could become the nation’s next “research triangle,” and could work together to study ways technology could revolutionize the way health-care is delivered in the state and the nation.
Health care is the largest industry in the country, comprising 16.5 percent of the gross national product, he said.
“The quality isn’t what it ought to be, even though we spend twice as much [for our health care] as any other country in the world,” he said.
Bringing the medical industry up to speed with technology could mean better productivity, which could reduce costs. Also, it could aid doctors with knowing and understanding new treatments and procedures faster.
Mongiardo said it takes 17 years for research-proven procedures to trickle down from researchers to local hospitals and doctors’ offices.
In fact, he said for doctors to stay on top of new techniques, treatments, procedures and medications, they would have to read 26 articles a day, seven days a week and 52 weeks a year.
Mongiardo said there has been no research into how to inject technology into the health care system.
The three universities, he said, could work together to conduct the necessary research and help the medical community use technology to improve service and reduce cost.
Finally, Mongiardo said Kentucky has the infrastructure in place that, with some effort and planning, could eventually connect all 120 counties with trails for hikers, bikers, four-wheel enthusiasts and horsemen.
With its natural assets, such as waterways, lakes, woodlands and farmlands, Kentucky could become a leader in “adventure tourism,” he said, adding that already, the No. 1 destination for tourists from Europe is Kentucky’s Red River Gorge.
Trails are “the No. 1 draw for tourists,” he said. “We have thousands of miles of dormant roads that could connect every county in the state and put together a multi-use trail system. ... There would be nothing like it anywhere in the world.”
Tourism, he said, is a $10 billion a year industry in Kentucky. If improvements increased tourism just by 10 percent, that would be an additional $1 billion each year.
Additionally, such improvements would “make people want to live here” in Kentucky, he said.
“I’m excited about this crisis. There are so many opportunities, if we so choose to take advantage of these oppportunities.”