Health Professions Center To Be A Busy Site

June 7, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — For the benefit of those who find it difficult to sort out everything that’s happening on Health Care Hill, the Business Journal last week had a chat with Doug Kindschi.

Kindschi is the dean of science and mathematics at Grand Valley State University, one of several health-related entities creating what he believes is the finishing touch to the hill.

“I like to think of it as the meat which goes along with the potatoes,” he chuckled.

“If you think of that hill as being basic research at the VAI, along with the health care delivery of Spectrum Health,” he said, “and then, of course, we’re only a mile or so from Saint Mary’s itself — and then you think of us in terms of translating that research into practical use, and into the education of people in health care and in research.”

Doing that finishing touch to the Hill, he said, is the area’s Medical Education & Research Council (MERC), a consortium of GVSU, Saint Mary’s Mercy Medical Center and Spectrum hospitals and the Michigan State University School of Medicine.

MERC — which also has been consulting with the Van Andel Institute and the hospitals’ medical intern and residency programs — is the conceptualizing, organizing, sponsoring and fund-raising entity behind the Grand Rapids Center for Health Professions.

And the center’s new home is the 220,000-square-foot, five-story structure whose steel framework now overlooks both Michigan Avenue and the Gerald R. Ford Expressway.

Kindschi explains that the $57 million center will house all of GVSU’s current health education programs, plus several new ones.

He explained it also will be the location of continuing health education programs required of all health professions, and that it will house several new degree programs.

“Most of these programs are already in existence,” Kindschi said, ticking off the GVSU School of Nursing with its bachelor’s and master’s degrees and nurse practitioner programs, plus graduate programs for physicians’ assistants, and occupational and physical therapy.

“Also consolidated there,” he said, “will be baccalaureate programs in recreational therapy and occupational health, which are either at Allendale or downtown in rented facilities.”

But he said the center also will feature several new degree programs.

Among those he listed will be masters in medical imaging and radiography, diagnostic sonography, plus a masters in clinical laboratory science and another in cell and molecular biology, both of which will tie directly to the pure research that is underway at the VAI.

“Then we also obtained a grant from the Sloan Foundation,” Kindschi said.

“That will enable us to offer masters programs in biomedical informatics — that’s in the area of computers and medical records — plus bio/medical statistics. And then, biotechnology is another one we’re looking at as part of the Sloan grant.”

He said the center also will be considering developing courses in areas such as genetic counseling and pathology assistant and other programs.

“This building will allow us to expand our offerings in health-related fields, as well as consolidate our existing programs,” he said.

But there’s something beyond those programs in which an estimated 2,000 students will enroll.

“The center is designated as part of the Smart Zone in the Life Sciences Corridor,” he explained. “And there’s space in that building for start-up companies, for incubators, on part of the fifth floor. Right now Grand Rapids doesn’t have any other incubator space.

“Those spaces are for spin-offs from the life sciences corridor, for businesses started by people working in the life sciences.”

Nobody knows when start-ups may seek space on the center’s fifth floor, but Kindschi said GVSU itself will begin moving in next May. “The center will be fully operational by the fall semester of 2003,” he added.

About 2,000 GVSU students are enrolled in health majors and the university advises that 25 percent of its freshmen have chosen a major in a health field.

GVSU says 82 percent of its graduates stay in the Midwest and that 52 percent stay in the Kent-Ottawa-Muskegon triangle. GVSU’s School of Nursing also reports that by 2020, the nation could have a shortage of 500,000 nurses.

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