UNK, UNMC Break Ground on Health Science Complex


University of Nebraska Kearney officials say it's a multimillion dollar project that's been more than two years in the making.

By the fall of 2015, students will be taking classes at the new Health Science Education Complex on the west side of UNK's campus.

UNK and University of Nebraska Medical Center officials broke ground together on the $19 million building, a symbol of their ongoing partnership to fill a rural health care void, Friday afternoon.

The building will hold classes for seven programs: expanded nursing and graduate nursing, and allied health professions – physician assistants, physical therapy, clinical laboratory science, medical nutrition, radiography, and diagnostic medical sonography.

"The idea is to find young women and young men who are interested in pursuing these careers, educating them here, and then having them serve the local community not only in the Kearney area, but across the state," says UNMC Chancellor Dr. Jeffrey Gold.

UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen says the goal is to get more health care providers in the field, and to get them to stay in central and western Nebraska.

He says that doesn't always happen when students have to move east for school.

"They would have to go to Omaha to receive that degree," says Kristensen. "That's where they get their first house, they meet their significant other, they have their children, and they become place-bound. Now they'll be doing all those things here in rural Nebraska."

The project is being funded by donors like Good Samaritan Hospital, and with money from the "Building a Healthier Nebraska" initiative – a 2012 Legislative appropriation.

The first graduates will come out of the Health Science Education Complex in 2017. Kristensen says the facility will give undergrads opportunities they won't find elsewhere too.

"Our undergraduates are going to change the way they're educated as well, they're going to have access to this building, they're going to be in those technology-rich labs," he says.

A study from the UNO Center for Public Affairs Research says the complex will have a $30.5 million economic impact each year.

"The real impact is going to be the quality and the economic firepower of the graduates of this building, so the nurses that go out, all the different allied health professionals who are going to live and work in all these communities, it's going to raise everybody's economic level," says Kristensen.