$85 million rural medical school at University of Nebraska at Kearney projected to open in 2025
Construction of an $85 million rural medical school at the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus is expected to begin in the fall of 2023 and open two years later.
Thursday, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents approved details such as the construction budget and program statement for that second phase of the UNK-University of Nebraska Medical Center health science education complex.
The project timeline follows previous approval from the Nebraska Legislature of $50 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding for capital construction, plus $10 million for iEXCEL technology startup costs.
The Legislature also committed operational funds to support faculty and staff. The university has committed $35 million in private funding for construction, according to a UNMC statement.
The Omaha-based UNMC has had a facility at UNK since 2015 that offers nursing training and a variety of health profession training programs. The second phase will allow expansion of those and also launch new programs to train physicians, pharmacists and public health professionals.
A Regents statement said the new building advances the UNMC mission, as Nebraska’s only public academic health science center to train and build the state’s health care workforce.
“Adding a second health science focused building at UNK creates opportunities for students who want to both pursue, and practice, their health careers closer to home, which help us build a stronger rural workforce, increase access to rural care and help communities thrive,” said Jeffrey Gold, chancellor of UNMC. “It will transform lives for generations.”
Gold presented an overview of the health care workforce across Nebraska’s 93 counties and future need projections. He said ongoing impacts of COVID-19 and other factors shows an increasing gap, especially in rural communities.
University leaders say the goal is to address urgent needs in rural Nebraska’s health care workforce. They say 14 counties in the state, for example, do not have a primary care physician.
UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen said the construction project was “fundamental” to rural Nebraska and the survival of many communities. “Only the university can solve this problem,” he said. “We’re on the verge of doing something that nobody else in the United States is doing, and that’s educating health care workers and professionals in rural areas.”
The new facility is to include extensive simulation and clinical skills laboratories for preclinical education and complex clinical scenarios. A Master of Health Administration degree is to be added to UNK’s undergraduate program. Discussion is underway for the UNMC College of Pharmacy to offer a joint degree program with UNK.