By Gary Leftwich
The University of West Georgia broke ground Thursday on a new student Health Center — the first of its kind to receive approval from the University System of Georgia.
Built through a unique partnership with Tanner Health System, the new student Health Center will leverage Tanner’s cost-effective building strategies to provide a state-of-the-art center that will provide UWG students with quality health care without any increase in mandatory health fees. The development and approval process took three years and the hard work of many people from UWG, Tanner, and contractor RA-LIN and Associates.
“That was our mantra — how can we best serve our students, ensuring they have the highest quality health care,” said UWG President Kyle Marrero, adding that the USG Board of Regents reviewed plans for the project closely with an eye to helping it become a reality. “Through close collaboration, we were able to put together an innovative plan that is the first of its kind in the state university system. The system staff was definitely supportive of a project that did not start with a proposal to raise student fees – and did everything they could to help us get to the finish line.”
“We’re excited to collaborate with the university on another innovative approach to expand health care access,” said Loy Howard, president and CEO of Tanner Health System. “This is another example of Tanner and the university coming together to make a long-term difference in the health of our community. This partnership will offer students better access to the growing line of services Tanner offers in the region, from primary care to behavioral health to wellness education and more.”
The new student health center, which is set to open in time for the spring 2019 semester, is the second major project between UWG and Tanner in recent years. The two organizations also partnered to establish UWG’s Tanner Health System School of Nursing. That partnership created more opportunities for students interested in nursing careers while also helping established nurses at Tanner keep their training current with the most recent clinical practice through access to the university’s state-of-the-art nursing labs.
UWG’s 14,500-square-foot, $4 million health facility will provide more than twice the usable space than UWG’s current health services building, which was built in 1971 to serve 7,000 students. UWG’s current population is 13,520 students. The number of exam rooms will double from eight to 16, and the building will house a medical lab and pharmacy, as well as wellness and advocacy services.
Today, the university’s health care and education services are offered in different buildings across campus. With the new facility, students will be able to receive care and learn about healthy lifestyles under one roof. The central, larger space will allow for enhancement of those services, according to Dr. Scot Lingrell, vice president of student affairs and enrollment management.
“It’s evidence that the University of West Georgia lives its values every day,” Lingrell said, highlighting the values of caring, collaboration and innovation.
Having one organization that epitomizes those values provides strength to a city or region, said Daniel Jackson, president of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerceand chairman of the Tanner Health System Board of Directors. Having multiple ones is rare, he added.
“Two of the greatest assets that build the quality of life in any community are quality health care and quality education,” Jackson said. “We’re fortunate to have both those assets that operate on a high level. Two institutions who mean so much to this community have come together to provide the best possible solution.”
Marrero agreed, saying the center will serve as a symbol of the relationship between the university and the community.
“This project is truly emblematic of the collaborative spirit and partnership in our community,” Marrero said. “It’s why people from across Georgia look to us for inspiration and as an example for a community that gets things done — together.”