Valdosta Daily Times

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May 3, 2010

Funds OK’d for VSU Health Sciences Center

VALDOSTA — A Health Sciences Center for Valdosta State University got one step closer to reality last week with the approval of the fiscal year 2011 state budget.

On April 29, The Georgia House of Representatives and Georgia Senate approved the new $17.9 billion budget, which included a $2.8 million appropriation for VSU for the Health Sciences Center.

These funds will allow the university to begin planning the facility, on the university’s north campus, in earnest.

The Rea and Lillian Steele North Campus location will allow the university to work closely with South Georgia Medical Center, President Dr. Patrick Schloss said.

“It’s absolutely essential that it should be located right across from one of the major medical centers in South Georgia,” Schloss said. “The need for advance nurse practitioners and others is extraordinary in the state of Georgia and extraordinary just in Valdosta. At the minimum and most basic, it allows us to increase the ability to educate folks and to fill health-care professional positions in the state.”

The hospital has already contributed $1 million for development of the Health Sciences Center, he said.

Once constructed, the center will house a wide array of departments

including the College of Nursing, Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy, Communications Disorders, Exercise Physiology and Sports Medicine, with the possibility of others.

“This project is in its absolute infancy, this money allows us to start working with architects and engineers,” Schloss said.

The detailed architectural and engineering work is expected to take more than a year, when the university will return to a priority list for state allocations, which could come in the form of state bond money, he said.

The engineering and architectural work will begin later this year, Schloss said.

“We will draw together the academic leadership to be housed in the center, and they will begin describing and developing the space and needs of the facility,” Schloss said.

The state-of-the-art building will house offices, laboratories and classrooms, he said.

The facility will also serve as a research center which will investigate best practices in medical care and medical technology and provide input for ancillary medical management concerns, which will connect the Harley Langdale Jr. College of Business Administration to health-care practice in the form of health-care management, he said.

The funds allocated by the state will get the university to the point where it can begin awarding contracts for actual development or construction, Schloss said.

But construction, which is expected to cost about $40 million, could be three to five years out as the funds will be allocated by the state, he said.

“We need additional funding for construction but this clearly is a rock-solid first step leading to a request for funding for actual construction,” Schloss said.

In addition to the $1 million provided by SGMC, the university received $400,000 several years ago for the project to design general schematics, Schloss said.

The $2.8 million allocation would not have been possible without the support of the local legislative delegation, which worked hard to put the facility back on the list for allocations, Schloss said.

Under former VSU President Ronald M. Zaccari, a three-phase master plan was developed, with the goal of accommodating the rising student enrollment, which is expected to reach 16,000 students by 2020.

The three-phase master plan included the construction of a new Hopper Hall, Centennial Hall East and West, two parking decks, an athletic field house, student health center and the university’s newest facility, a student union.

In June 2008, The Valdosta Daily Times printed a special section in honor of Zaccari and detailed the current and future construction projects for VSU.

In the 2008 article, the proposed north campus facility was projected to be the home of Health Sciences and Business Administration, with residence halls, dining facilities and other infrastructure being constructed on the north campus at a later date.

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