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Edward Dusch '67S, '73GB/GS

All Systems Go

by John Chamberlain

The lights are always on at the Louisville Medical Center.

Everyday the patients that arrive at emergency rooms in screaming ambulances, the doctors, nurses and students who make the hospital rounds, the researchers who seek the next cure, the laboratory techs who monitor the experiments all depend on the miles of pipes and wires that connect underground to five million square feet of Louisville's main core of health care facilities downtown.

Altogether it takes just over 20 people to keep the outdoor lights on and heating and cooling systems working, says the center's general manager Ed Dusch, a University of Louisville graduate with masters degrees in engineering and business.

And don't forget the sheets, towels and scrubs, 11 million pounds of laundry a year. The center's 2,000 beds all demand clean and sterile sheets. LMC also operates the central laundry with an additional 75 employees.

ed Dusch's command center is a modest office at the Steam and Chilled Water Plant on Abraham Flexner Way. Once standing tall and alone, two 175-foot-tall stacks at the center are now dwarfed by the towers at Jewish Hospital and Frazier Rehab Center.

Outside street signs post arrows pointing in every direction toward seven core hospitals and four major campuses: Jewish Hospital Medical Campus, Norton Health Campus, UofL Health Care and the UofL Health Sciences Center. It does not show the Jefferson Community College also served by the plant.

The complex is the largest concentration of health care providers in Kentucky. Over time buildings have come and gone, but the power plant, which opened in 1954, remains. Street banners on new sidewalk light fixtures say "Creating the Knowledge That Heals." High above the walks at least three cranes are visible, one over 200 feet tall. They show that brick and mortar also are vital to this effort.

Six boilers producing 300,000 pounds per hour of steam and fourteen water chillers providing 23 thousand tons of air conditioning are not enough to meet future needs. A $7 million plant expansion is about to begin that will add 6,000 tons of cooling capacity.

"We hope to build an additional plant at the east end of the medical center in the next decade as we are nearing maximum capacity here," Dusch says.

A new master plan shows a second power plant that will increase capacity and ensure service to critical needs with either site backing up the other, Dusch adds. Recent additions of the Baxter Research buildings on the site of the Old General Hospital, the Biomed 3 now under construction and consistent growth among all the healthcare partners have made the Louisville center one of the fastest growing in the country.

Ed Dusch knows master plans.

Prior to coming to the downtown health center, he played a major role in the development and growth of UofL's Belknap Campus. While at the J.B. Speed School of Engineering in the 1960s, Dusch worked part time in buildings and grounds department as a draftsman. And he operated the boilers one winter on weekends to give the regular workers a day off.

After a two-year stint in Columbus, Ohio, designing cabin pressurization systems for the military, Wade Woods, UofL's physical plant director, lured him back to campus as his assistant in 1969. In 1978, he was named Woods successor after a national search.

Dusch recalls the first major master plan for UofL created in the 1970s. One symbol stands out as to the uncertainty of sometimes overly bold visions. One UofL president said "We need to move those railroad tracks," a mandate given to the consultants working on the 1977 master plan for UofL. "He thought anything was possible, an optimist," Dusch says.

Many students and the instructors who hear the excuses of lateness due to trains on the tracks can still attest that they are still there 30 years later. The tracks returned to the master plan when updated in the 1980s.

Much of the plan did come true, however, with WWII barracks disappearing, and buildings constructed for the library, music, business, education and chemistry emerging. In addition, the purchase of Shelby Campus and the opening the downtown Health Sciences Center greatly expanded the UofL complex of land and buildings.

The Health Sciences Center's opening in 1971 brought nearly a million square feet of space online at one time. However, the designers did not anticipate the complaints received from residents in nearby Dosker Manor that the gross anatomy lab needed curtains on the windows. Curtains were added, but Dusch recalls that to see into those windows binoculars would have been needed anyway.

Dusch can smile over many stories. One time the president and his wife were trapped in their beds when a swarm of bees escaped the attic of the residence into their bedroom. He doesn't recall if the president was smiling.

And there are other stories about the dorms, Greek housing, and a governor's 50th birthday party on campus that he cannot tell.

One thing has been constant, both at UofL and at the medical center. Dusch believes that his biggest complaint received is that it is "too hot." The second is that it is "too cold."

While keeping everyone happy is a daily challenge, Dusch also is engaged in more long-term issues in planning the needs for the next decade, facing the challenge of finding more efficient energy solutions while ensuring that the doctors, nurses and patients have a reliable source for lighting, heating and cooling. Did we mention the sheets?

But there is always the unexpected.

Shortly after leaving UofL to join the growing health center in 1993, Dusch was engaged in installing a big new water chiller. This included two service connections to LG&E, one primarily a backup for the power needed.

One day both went off at the same time and the new equipment crashed. Three blocks away a contractor was boring under the streets horizontally 10 feet deep and drilled through all six conduits serving the plant. Dusch visited the scene and could not believe his eyes when he saw the contractor's pick up truck. On the door were the words "Murphy Brothers."

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