By Tim Charles / Guest Column

If you’ve traveled near downtown Cedar Rapids recently, you’ve likely seen lightpole banners and other signs featuring a large red “Q.” That “Q” indicates you’re in the heart of the city’s MedQuarter Regional Medical District – 55 square blocks including businesses, dining establishments, cultural attractions, faith-based and nonprofit organizations, and of course, medical services anchored by Mercy Medical Center and fellow care providers.

MedQuarter organizations are dedicated to the development of Cedar Rapids as a patient-centered medical destination offering an exceptional blend of health care services coupled with green spaces, stores and more. This progressive melding of industries creates an experience like none other, inviting visitors not only to physically heal in the district but to explore it for holistic healing as well, either through the tranquility of nature or the comfort of spiritual centers. At the same time, the hub presents medical and business professionals with a vibrant place to live and work, encouraging a strong economic foundation.

The district was born in 2011 from the shared efforts of the Vision Cedar Rapids Downtown Framework Plan 2007 and the 2009 Neighborhood Planning Process. These initiatives identified nine specific districts uniquely equipped to bolster economic growth and revitalization in the downtown area, a critical focus following the aftermath of the 2008 flood.

Mercy has been actively involved in the identified medical district’s work since its inception and I’m honored to currently serve as the medical district commission chair. As the landscape of health care in the United States continues to evolve, collaboration among patient-care providers is a key component to enhancing wellness locally.

The providers of the MedQuarter offer a model of care that puts people at the center of health care services, leading to better care, better patient experiences and, ultimately, better health for Eastern Iowans. From dentists to primary care physicians and specialists to hospitals, the centralized location of providers in the district means patients receive clearly coordinated and more affordable care in convenient settings.

Cedar Rapids has been recognized by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement as one of the top 10 cities in the country delivering high quality, low-cost health care – evidence that the medical district’s collaborative efforts are on the right track.

Working with urban planning firm The Lakota Group, in collaboration with stakeholders, the MedQuarter has drafted a Master Development Plan with a five-year action strategy that encourages people to improve their overall well-being in an environment that gives them tools to stay well.

The master plan holds four main objectives: deliver a superior visitor experience, improve the quality of MedQuarter health care opportunities, actively promote economic development and contribute to the growth of Cedar Rapids. Readers curious about the plan can access it at

At the core of the plan is a basic concept: the experience of visiting the medical district goes much deeper than medicine. The experience truly encompasses the mind, body and spirit.

For example, a stroll through green spaces infused with colorful plants creates a calming effect, reducing stress and anxiety, and may even lessen pain symptoms. Another stress reliever is in the form of solitude – quiet spaces where a person may find an opportunity for reflection.

At Mercy, we offer numerous healing gardens brimming with blooming flowers, interesting art sculptures and tranquil fountains, along with the open doors of Our Lady of Mercy Chapel for those in need of spiritual space. These types of alternative healing outlets are abundant throughout the district.

It’s the MedQuarter’s vision to be nationally recognized as an area in which residents can live, work and heal by 2032. We are well on the way. While the red “Q” may be a telltale symbol of the district, it’s also representative of “quality” in Cedar Rapids – quality of health care, experiences and life.

I invite you to drive, bike or take a stroll through the district this summer to discover all the conveniences, aesthetics and superior health care the MedQuarter has to offer.

Tim Charles is president and CEO of Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids.