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Medical Tourism

Medical Tourism

Greater Gainesville’s landscape is dotted with nationally leading health care systems that draw medical tourists from around the state, country and even the world. These include top-ranking hospitals like UF Health Shands, HCA Florida North Florida Hospital and the Malcolm Randall Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. 

Top 100 U.S. Hospitals UF Health Shands Hospital, HCA Florida North Florida Hospital and UF Shands Children’s Hospital bring people to the area from the 67 counties of Florida, all 50 states and dozens of countries. In addition, the Malcolm Randall Department VA Center is one of the busiest VA medical centers in the nation and is highly ranked by the VA Institute. 

Patients travel from far beyond Greater Gainesville seeking specialty services performed at the area’s high ranking health care systems. These systems are supported by research, top-tier education and a thriving, innovative bioscience industry. Nationally and internationally recognized physicians work at Greater Gainesville’s health care systems and lead the charge in advancing modern medicine. 


What is medical tourism? 

Medical tourism generally means when patients travel away from their homes to another city, state or country for a particular medical treatment. The distance traveled and the length of patients’ stay varies among different definitions of what constitutes medical tourism.  

Another aspect of medical tourism is that patients and the loved ones who travel with them impact the local economy. This economic impact is both direct — through direct revenue to hospitals and grant funding for medical research — and indirect, through travelers’ expenses including lodging, dining, transportation, retail and visits to local attractions. 


Our Health Care Systems Sought from People Around the World  

These three hospital systems are regarded as the driving force behind Greater Gainesville’s medical destination status: 


UF Health

UF Health is a leading health care system not just in Greater Gainesville, but in the nation. Its high-quality level of care is truly comprehensive, ranging from basic health care needs to the most complex medical conditions. 

Artificial intelligence is a major emphasis point for UF Health. A $100 million private-public partnership with the Nvidia Corporation resulted in UF’s HiPerGator — the most powerful AI supercomputer nationally in higher education. In 2021, UF created GatorTron™, an artificial intelligence that accelerates research and medical decision-making by extracting insights from massive volumes of clinical data at lightning speed.  

The UF Health Cancer Center earned the Cancer Center of Excellence state designation in 2018 and was one of only three hospitals in the state to earn a share of $100 million in funding for cancer research for 2022-2023. 


Specialties within domains with worldwide recognition, like Tyler’s Hope for a dystonia cure, are programs that encourage people to travel to Greater Gainesville. Dystonia is the third most common movement disorder after Parkinson’s disease and tremor. UF is prominently working on research and has programs for children and families within this program. 

With the explosion of autism related disorders and in search of relief from the symptoms, families with autistic children and adults seek out Gainesville specialists as well. The UF Center for Autism and Neurodevelopment Disorders opened in February 2020 and provides a variety of services.  

Centers of Emphasis at UF Health Shands Hospital: 

  • Cancer — UF Health Cancer Center of Excellence 
  • Women’s and Children’s Services  
  • More than 20 pediatric specialties at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital 
  • Heart care — UF Health Heart & Vascular Hospital 
  • Neuromedicine Specialties 
  • Orthopaedics 
  • Transplants — UF Health Shands Transplant Center 

Other specialties:  

  • Diabetes — Diabetes Institute 
  • Sleep — UF Health Sleep Center 
  • Aging and geriatric research 
  • Anesthesiology 
  • Dermatology 
  • Emergency medicine 
  • Family medicine 
  • Internal medicine 
  • Neurology 
  • Neurosurgery 
  • Obstetrics and gynecology 
  • Ophthalmology 
  • Rehabilitation 
  • Otolaryngology 
  • Pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine 
  • Pediatrics 
  • Psychiatry 
  • Radiology 
  • Surgery 
  • Urology 

In the Rankings/Points of Pride 

  • UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital 
  • Top ranked children’s hospital in Florida 
  • One of the top eight Children’s Hospitals in the Southeast 
  • Offers eight specialties, with five ranked as some of the best in the country 
  • Liver transplant program is the best in the nation in terms of outcomes 
  • Lung transplant program is one of the top six in the country 
  • Leader in developing COVID-related lung transplant protocols 
  • Second hospital in the country to begin doing COVID lung transplants and have completed the most of any hospital 
  • Neurosurgery and Neurology programs are two of the most successful programs in the country in terms of National Institutes of Health funding and in clinical research and unique treatment programs.  
  • This includes motion disorders (leveraging deep brain stimulation and other treatment modalities for Parkinsons and similar diseases), brain tumors, stroke and more 
  • Pediatric heart transplant program is ranked seventh in the nation 
  • The pediatric heart transplant program is part of a comprehensive adult and pediatric heart program that includes everything from heart transplants to congenital heart disease to aortic surgical interventions. 
  • One of the highest accredited and comprehensive trauma programs in Florida, including five trauma transport aircraft 

Rankings according to U.S. News & World Report 2022 and information provided by UF Health 


HCA Florida North Florida Hospital 

Formerly known as North Florida Regional Medical Center, the center officially rebranded as HCA Florida North Florida Hospital in March 2022. It is part of the HCA Florida Healthcare system, the largest network of doctors, nurses and care sites in Florida.  

North Florida Hospital is a full-service medical and surgical acute care center, boasting many accreditations, awards and recognitions. Some of these include the Blue Distinction Center Plus for Spine Surgery and Bariatric Surgery by Blue Cross Blue Shield, Get with the Guidelines Stroke Gold Plus by the American Heart Association and national accreditations by the American College of Cardiology for chest pain, stroke and transcatheter aortic valve replacement.  


  • Cardiology 
  • Company care 
  • Emergency care 
  • Gastroenterology 
  • Imaging services 
  • Mental health and wellness 
  • Neurological care 
  • NICU 
  • Oncology 
  • Orthopedic care 
  • Pediatrics 
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation 
  • Pulmonary care 
  • Senior health 
  • Sleep disorders 
  • Spine care 
  • Surgery 
  • Weight loss surgery 
  • Women’s care 
  • Wound care 


Malcolm Randall Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center 

The North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System, includes two medical centers, the Malcolm Randall Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Gainesville and the Lake City VA Medical Center in Lake City.  

See Also

This tertiary care facility is an active teaching hospital with a variety of specialties supported through education and research.  

The Malcolm Randall VA Center is also supported by the Gainesville Fisher House, a private-public partnership located on the VA campus. The Fisher House provides VA patients’ families a home away from home and humanitarian services not typically provided at the VA Center facility. 

By the Numbers 

  • North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System ranked 15th best VA system out of 177 in the nation, by the VA Institutes as of 2019 
  • According to the Gainesville Fisher House, the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health Care System is the VA’s largest health care system, spanning 40,000 square miles over 50 counties and serving more than 130,000 veterans 
  • Malcolm Randall VA Center is one of the top five busiest VA medical centers in the country, with 40,000-50,000 outpatient visits each month and 12,000 in-patient admissions each year 


Specialty services include, but are not limited to: 

  • Traumatic brain injury treatment 
  • Spinal cord injury treatment 
  • Stroke rehabilitation 
  • Radiation/oncology 
  • Hospice and palliative care 
  • Surgery (including surgical inpatient care, cardiothoracic, neurological, musculoskeletal and other) 


My Story in Health Care 

I was born and raised in Gainesville. Growing up, Gainesville felt too small for me at the time. I thought I was missing out on something bigger, so I moved away from about 10 years. I had wonderful exciting experiences.  

In 2004, my life took a huge turn and I was brought back to Gainesville for health reasons. I came back for a hospital visit with a physician at Shands because of massive pain in my abdomen and lower back that was unexplained by the doctors I visited in the big city where I resided at the time. It was incredible how quickly the local doctors were able to access the issue and help me go through the right steps to find the health care I needed.  

I was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia and quickly transferred to the Adult Blood and Bone Marrow Transplant at Shands. This was my return to Gainesville, the beginning to my life back in my hometown and just a few years later, into my career in real estate. Without the incredible team of physicians, PAs, nurses and being near family and friends, I may not have survived.  

In that time, I met so many people who traveled from all over Florida, the South and sometimes the region for the health care services we have at our doorsteps here in Gainesville. My family and I only had to drive a few minutes to the hospital when so many others were driving two to four hours just for their chemo treatments or checkups. We have a true gem in our local health care facilities that is probably not realized until it is needed. 

— Kristen Rabell, broker/owner of Rabell Realty Group 

By Jewell Tomazin 

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