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VOL. 131 | NO. 193 | Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Projects Position UTHSC For Transformation in 2017

By Andy Meek

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The campus of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center is as much a home to a major health care education institution these days as it is ground zero for major development projects poised to come online soon.


The onset of the fourth quarter finds the campus on track to bring some of those projects to fruition in 2017. Like the $16 million Plough Center for Sterile Drug Delivery Systems that’s turning a former warehouse at 208 S. Dudley St. into a state-of-the-art facility for manufacturing drugs and training students and professionals.

The center, according to UTHSC executive vice chancellor Dr. Kennard Brown, is on track to be finished in the first quarter next year. Among other things, the facility will house pods that serve as sterile environments for manufacturing drugs, and Brown said the university already has outside interest – from research entities, individual faculty and the like – that want to be involved in doing work there.

“What we’ve found, much to our pleasure, is we’ve got a lot of industry interest in terms of people who want to do business with us,” Brown said. “Like any new business, we hope to be oversubscribed before we even open the doors, so that there’s a waiting list of people to do work for. So we’re happy with the evolution of what the prospects look like for the Plough Center.”

UTHSC Chancellor Dr. Steve Schwab gave a nod to projects like that in his annual State of the University address earlier this month, proudly declaring that the university has “a great story to tell.”

Not just because of metrics like the university graduation rate of 96 percent, or that the number of graduates has risen to more than 1,300 a year when residency and fellowship certificates are included, or that the first-time board pass rate is 97.3 percent.

It’s also because of projects that are poised to dramatically transform the campus. In addition to the Plough Center, there’s also the $36.7 million Interprofessional Simulation and Patient Safety Center under construction.

There, students from all six of the university’s colleges – dentistry, graduate health sciences, health professions, nursing, pharmacy and medicine – will train together in simulation settings to deliver team-based health care. It’s likewise headed for a 2017 opening.

That center will use high-tech manikins as well as actors trained to portray patients with a variety of conditions, as well as about $4.5 million in the latest audio-visual equipment and computers.

“We’re still looking at mid-year next year for the physical completion of the construction, then it’s all the complicated technical equipment to get in and going,” Brown said of the Interprofessional Simulation and Patient Safety Center. “Probably realistically in the third quarter of next year it will be pretty close to being operational.”

In his address, Schwab also mentioned renovations to the campus’ Historic Quadrangle, which will include converting the Mooney Memorial Library to administrative offices, reception areas and meeting space.

Among other work as part of that project, a building bordering the quadrangle is being upgraded to house the College of Nursing. Schwab also noted that work is progressing on a second dental building on campus.

All of it adds up to a transformational moment underway of the physical space at UTHSC and means 2017 is shaping up to be a major year for the school.

“Next year, the Plough Center and the simulation center will come online,” Brown said. “The other things we’ll be working through include the quadrangle and college of dentistry project. There’s always some carrot we’re chasing to keep the evolution of the campus moving.”

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