Is Jacksonville ready for a boost in medical tourism?

Visit Jacksonville is creating a marketing campaign to boost medical tourism.

attracting medical tourists(Photo: ken amaro)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville's river and beaches are good reasons to attract visitors.

"I think sometimes we find it hard to believe that we're a popular destination," said Patty Jimenez.

Jimenez is with Visit Jacksonville and they are creating a marketing campaign to boost medical tourism.

"We call it medical tourism but it is a delicate thing people are coming here to save their own lives," she said.

Vanessa Williams, 50, knows what Jacksonville has to offer.

"I kept trying to find other places, but I kept coming back to this one place," she said.

Williams traveled from Switzerland to Jacksonville for eye surgery; Since last April she made four trips. She said she was going blind.

"I truly couldn't see," said Williams," but now I am going back with 20/20."

Williams said after no other doctor could help her with her eye disease she turned to the computer for knowledge. She said her research repeatedly pointed her to the Gulani Vision Institute.

Dr. Arun Gulani said Jacksonville is like a well kept secret. He said in one week he had patients from nine countries.

"We are blessed," Gulani said, "patients come here from all over the world. It is also a testimony that people want the best care and they are willing to fly."

He invented the surgical procedure he used on Williams.

"Her eyes went from poor to no vision, to good vision, to excellent 20/20 for the rest of her life," he said.

Gulani said Jacksonville is more than ready for a significant medical tourism marketing campaign.

"I do believe Jacksonville is that fertile area where you can call it a medical kingdom," he said.

Based on his own experience he said people will go where ever for the best medical care.

"It is a testimony to changing times that patients want the best care and travel is not an issue," said Gulani.

Jimenez said in 2014 some of the facilities in the current medical infrastructure, Mayo, The Proton Center, UF Health and Wolfson Children Hospital, generated millions for Jacksonville's economy.

"Last year alone we made about 20 plus million dollars," she said.

And this is just the beginning.

"It is happening it has been going on and it is only going to get bigger from now on," said Jimenez.

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