NAU addressing ‘obvious need’ through role in UA’s College of Medicine

break ground
break ground
Arizona elected officials and state higher education representatives celebrate the official groundbreaking on the Health Sciences Education Building at the downtown Phoenix Biomedical Campus on May 12. Pictured from left: Sen. Jorge Garcia of Tucson; Arizona House Speaker Kirk Adams of Mesa; Arizona Board of Regents President Ernest Calderón; Gov. Jan Brewer; UA President Robert Shelton; NAU dental hygiene student Kendra McKune; Rep. John Kavanagh of Fountain Hills; UA pharmacy student Kelly Kistler; UA medical student Alan Wang; NAU President John Haeger; and Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon.

A ceremonial groundbreaking in Phoenix yesterday signaled more than the next phase of expansion for the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine. It also strengthened the partnership between Northern Arizona University and the UA to help fill critical workforce shortages in the health professions.

The new $187 million, 268,000-square-foot Health Sciences Education Building will become part of the downtown Phoenix Biomedical Campus to house the expansion of the UA medical school while also allowing for the substantial expansion of NAU’s allied health programs—namely its physician assistant and occupational therapy programs. The UA’s College of Pharmacy and College of Public Health also will have a presence.

“Public universities must pursue public needs and agendas,” said NAU President John Haeger. “Providing adequate health care is an obvious need.”

“Today we have moved one step closer to fulfilling the urgent need for health care professionals in our state,” said Arizona Board of Regents President Ernest Calderón. “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.”

Haeger explained that NAU’s role in the new facility began five years ago after a consultant’s report found a tremendous demand for allied health programs throughout the state. “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.’”

Haeger said specialists such as physicians assistants, occupational therapists and physical therapists, in particular, continue to be in high demand and are necessary to help medical doctors meet patient needs.

“It is a natural move for NAU to partner with the University of Arizona,” he said, explaining that NAU is well positioned to meet the demand considering its ties with “every community college in the state.”

Slated to open in August 2012, the new facility is part of the overall plan to create a major academic health center in downtown Phoenix that will include health education facilities, research and clinical programs. In addition to the medical school, the Phoenix Biomedical Campus is home to Translational Genomics Research Institute and has been developed over the last five years by the Arizona Board of Regents, the three state universities and the city of Phoenix.

“Northern Arizona University will continue to develop programs that provide solutions to Arizona’s most pressing primary care and therapy needs,” Haeger said. “The biomedical campus allows us to continue our innovative interdisciplinary teaching and research in partnership with UA. All Arizona will benefit for many years to come.”

NAU will offer its new physician assistant and occupational therapy programs at the new facility and expand its doctor of physical therapy program in Phoenix, with plans to graduate 150 new primary care health professionals each year.