Alex Stagnaro-Green, dean of the University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford, announced to attendees at the Rockford Chamber of Commerce “Heartbeat of Healthcare” luncheon on August 12 that planning is underway for a new Rural Health Sciences Education Building on the college’s campus.
Currently, programs from the University of Illinois Chicago colleges of medicine, nursing and pharmacy are located on the UIC Health Sciences Campus-Rockford at 1601 Parkview Ave. The proposed $100-million building would allow the expansion of UIC programs that focus on educating rural health professionals to include such fields as dentistry, public health, social work and applied health. That would result in an additional 400 students on the Rockford campus, essentially doubling the number of students.
“What started 50 years ago in Rockford as a regional medical school has grown to become a health sciences campus that is known for its work in preparing health care professionals to serve in rural and underserved areas,” says Stagnaro-Green. “Our Rural Medical Education Program and National Center for Rural Health Professions have developed successful models that can be applied to a number of health professions to help with the shortages that exist in all but four Illinois counties.”
Health professions shortages have a significant negative impact on the health and life expectancy of the more than 1.4 million residents of rural Illinois. With the ability to train health professionals in Rockford and the network of hospitals already in place in rural areas of the state, the UIC Health Sciences Campus-Rockford is poised to become the first university in the nation to have a rural health sciences education and research hub spanning seven colleges.
This would not only have an economic impact in the Rockford area, but would enhance the health of rural Illinois residents by increasing the number of health care providers with the skills and desire to serve their unique needs, according to Stagnaro-Green.
Next steps for the project include securing funding from state, federal and philanthropic sources. Stagnaro-Green hopes the project will break ground in 2023.