There was plenty to celebrate at last week’s groundbreaking for the Health Sciences Education Building (HSEB) at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix: the end of long and delicate negotiations; new construction jobs right away; and more doctors and pharmacists soon. A less-publicized benefit of the new facility, but one of great importance to Arizona, is major growth of Northern Arizona University‘s role in educating health professionals.
“Public universities must pursue public needs and agendas,” said NAU President John Haeger. “Providing adequate health care is an obvious need.”
The $187 million, 268,000 square-foot facility on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus should generate several thousand on-site construction jobs over the next two years. And once the HSEB opens in August 2012, it will enable UA to enroll as many as 120 new medical students each year on the Phoenix campus, up from the current 48–a major step toward easing Arizona’s physician shortage. The UA College of Pharmacy will also use the building, continuing the ramp-up of its metro-Phoenix educational offerings by training up to 80 advanced pharmacy students each year.
“In the years ahead, students will work in this building in a collaborative, cross-discipline environment,” said UA President Robert Shelton at the groundbreaking. “These students—future physicians, pharmacists, nurses, public-health, and allied-health professionals—will serve Maricopa County, Arizona and our nation.”
NAU’s share of the partnership in the new facility will concentrate on educating the allied-health professionals President Shelton noted, including training for physicians assistants, occupational therapists, and physical therapists. A report commissioned for NAU five years ago identified labor deficits in those fields that were as severe as Arizona’s shortages in the supply of doctors, pharmacists, and nurses.
President Haeger cited several questions the report raised. “Does any public university offer allied-health fields? Does the supply meet the demand? Are the degrees accessible across the state?’ The answer to all these questions was, ‘no,'” President Haeger said.
NAU, which already has well-established programs in nursing, physical therapy, speech pathology, and athletic training in Flagstaff, will offer at the HSEB its new physicians-assistant and occupational-therapy programs, as well as an expansion of its existing doctoral program in physical therapy. The university’s target is to graduate 150 primary-care health professionals annually.
Both President Haeger and Ernest Calderón, president of the Arizona Board of Regents, cited the cross-institutional approach being employed at the HSEB. At times, allied-health students from NAU, medical and pharmacy students from UA, and nursing students from Arizona State University will all train together, reflecting the real-world crossover of health-care professions.
“Today we have moved one step closer to fulfilling the urgent need for health-care professionals in our state,” Calderón said at the groundbreaking event. “This one-of-a-kind interdisciplinary facility will provide greater access to medical education in Arizona and will have a tremendous economic impact on the state by creating new jobs and pumping revenue into the economy.”
“The Biomedical Campus allows us to continue our innovative interdisciplinary teaching and research in partnership with UA,” said President Haeger. “All Arizona will benefit for many years to come.”
Joining Calderón and the university presidents in addressing guests at the HSEB groundbreaking were Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, House Speaker Kirk Adams, Senate Minority Leader Jorge Luis Garcia, and Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon.
Several of the speakers emphasized in their remarks the immediate and long-term economic benefits that the build-out of the Biomedical Campus would bring to downtown Phoenix and all of Arizona.
“The Health Sciences Education Building solidifies the Phoenix Biomedical Campus as the center of biomedical innovation, research and engineering,” President Shelton said. “It will help the UA increase our research portfolio and enhance and establish important biotechnology partnerships in greater Phoenix.”
For more information:
“A booster shot for ailing Arizona,” Arizona Republic, 05/13/2010
“NAU addressing ‘obvious need’ through role in UA’s College of Medicine,” NAU news release, 05/13/2010
“Medical Campus Expansion Underway,” UA news release, 05/12/2010