The doctor is in.
The University of West Georgia will celebrate the grand opening of its new Student Health Center in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, Feb. 21, at 2:30 p.m.
The new center, which has been officially open since the beginning of the spring semester, was built over the course of less than a year from groundbreaking to completion. The joint venture with Tanner Health System will allow the university to better serve students with no increase in mandatory health fees.
The 14,000-square-foot, $4 million facility provides more than twice the usable space as UWG’s former health services building. The new facility is located near the corner of Maple Street and the university’s west entrance, across the parking lot from Tyus Hall.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony will invite leaders from UWG, Tanner Health System, and RA-LIN and Associates (the project’s contractor) to speak on the importance of providing crucial services to students.
“The new health center is a modern, student-friendly facility featuring state-of-the-art equipment, enhancing the care available to our students,” said Angie Bradley, UWG’s director of health services, adding that the facility supports the current student population and accommodates for growth. “The additional square footage alone will make the facility more functional, but the efficiencies associated with the design will also affect our workflow positively and enable us to keep students healthier and safer by serving their needs more efficiently.”
Also, in something of a coincidence, UWG Health Services has recently welcomed a new full-time physician, a position that was left vacant for the past two years. Dr. Eric Heine, a former emergency department physician and familiar face in the Carrollton community, started at UWG in fall 2018.
“I live just a few minutes away from UWG’s campus and passed by the university every day on my way to work for 28 years, so I’ve always felt very connected to this place,” Heine said. “I always found myself wondering what it would be like to work here. I found myself wanting a change in my career, and I couldn’t have found a place that feels more like home.”
Heine said that while he enjoyed the adrenaline rush being an emergency room doctor provided, that rush was waning as he progressed through his career.
“I found myself wanting to see more of that continuity of care, in which you see your patients grow and change,” Heine said. “Having the ability to watch the students grow through their time in college became more appealing and exciting. Working in the emergency department was a tough job to leave behind, but when I met the people working here at Health Services, that sold me. They are a top-notch group of health service providers.”
Bradley said that Health Services has, in the past several years, experienced a narrowing of the scope and number of services it provided to students because of space deficiencies and several open personnel positions.
“We were forced to streamline our offerings, but now that we have all of the pieces in place – a full staff in an amazing facility – it allows us to optimize offerings and seek to expand our services in the future,” Bradley said.
The former facility was built in 1971 to serve 7,000 students, just under half of UWG’s current population of 13,733. The new facility houses 17 exam rooms, more than double what the former facility could house. Fifteen of those rooms are standard examination rooms, with one room dedicated to procedures and another specially equipped for sexual assault examinations and services.
UWG Health Services also employs five certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) providers, thanks in large part to a grant awarded by the Georgia Criminal Justice Coordinating Council in 2018.
Previously, the university’s health care and education services were offered in different buildings across campus. With the new facility, students are able to receive care and learn about healthy lifestyles under one roof. In addition to medical care, the center offers pharmacy, patient advocacy and health education services.
“This is the first time we’ll have all of Health Services under the same roof in a number of years,” Bradley said. “We’re looking forward on working with our teams to ensure goals are aligned and that we can use our proximity to its full advantage.”
Plans for the new center were first unveiled in January 2018, less than a year before the facility opened its doors. The university, through a partnership with Tanner that was the first of its kind approved by the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents, was able to leverage the health system’s expertise and lower construction costs while keeping the cost of care affordable.
“Tanner is a mission-driven, community-focused organization,” said Loy Howard, president and CEO of Tanner Health System. “Two elements that you need for a vibrant, growing community are strong educational institutions and quality health care. By partnering with UWG on this project, we’re working toward both. It’s a unique partnership to ensure that the university can continue to provide an accessible, affordable education for the residents of our region while also meeting the health needs of their students, which is directly in line with Tanner’s mission to improve the health of the communities we serve.”
For more information on UWG Health Services and to see the services it provides, visit www.westga.edu/health.