KU Medical Center on Thursday officially opened its new health education building, an $82 million, 170,000-square-foot facility that will serve as the primary teaching venue for its medical, nursing and allied health profession schools.
The state-of-the-art building, at the northeast corner of Rainbow Boulevard and 39th Street, was funded with $26 million in state money, $21 million from the University of Kansas Medical Center, $25 million from the Hall Family Foundation and the rest in additional private money.
At a ceremony attended by some 500 guests and dignitaries, University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod harked back to an accreditation site visit in 2005 by the Liaison Committee for Medical Education.
“And they recognized something that we already knew,” Girod said. “Which is, we had grown our class size pretty significantly to try and address some workforce issues. Our space was not adequate in size for what we had class-size, and certainly our technology was not adequate. And that came out in that (committee’s) report.”
The five-story building supplants aging infrastructure on the sprawling medical school and KU Hospital campus. The building, which was designed by Helix Architecture + Design and CO Architects, features a simulation center, mock exam rooms, classrooms, flexibly designed spaces for hands-on learning and artwork by local artists. A sky bridge connects it to the south part of the campus.
“I believe this is the only building in the United States that has the educational facilities for a school of medicine, a school of nursing and a school of health professions under one roof,” Girod said.
Kansas, like other states, faces a growing demand for health care providers. The building will enable KU Med, the only medical school in the state, to help meet that demand along with its medical campus in Wichita, which was upgraded recently from a two-year to a four-year program, and a medical campus it opened in Salina focusing on rural health care.
Robert Simari, executive dean of the medical school, said KU Med’s status as the state’s lone medical school “means we have a tremendous responsibility to address Kansas’ dire shortage of health care professionals.
“The building will enable us to increase the number of doctors, nurses and allied health professionals that we train, and to train them in a technologically advanced environment demanded by new and modern health care curricula,” Simari said.
“Gone are the days,” he said, “of sitting bored in the back of a classroom while a professor drones on slide after slide. This building will be a home for active and engaged students interacting with each other and with involved faculty.”
Ground was broken for the building less than two years ago. Mark Holland, mayor and CEO of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, told the audience he had a rule of thumb: “If you’re going to invest three-quarters, almost a billion dollars in our city, we’re going to make it work.
“I mean it’s just a little rule of thumb,” he said. “If you come close to a billion dollars, we’re your friend. I think that’s easy math for anybody.”
Holland was referring to the explosive growth of the campus in the last decade, including the $320 million Cambridge North Patient Tower, part of KU Hospital, still under construction just east of the Health Education Building. That building will house two of the hospital’s fastest growing specialties, surgical oncology and neuroscience. It is expected to be completed next year.
Dan Margolies is KCUR’s health editor. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.