The Virginia Commonwealth University College of Health Professions celebrated a monumental step Monday, cutting the ribbon on a 154,000-square-foot building that will provide a unified space for its faculty, staff, students and nationally ranked programs.
The building, designed to meet LEED Silver certification standards, is scheduled to open for classes in the fall, coinciding with the college’s 50th anniversary. For the first time, all nine academic units, the doctoral program in health-related sciences, the dean’s office and the Virginia Center on Aging will be housed in the same building. Over the years, these programs have occupied 13 buildings and are currently scattered among five buildings on two campuses.
The building, which includes a west-facing eight-story wing and a south-facing four-story wing, is equipped with learning laboratories designed for patient simulation and diagnostic technology. Each of the eight floors features formal and informal spaces designed to promote interprofessional education and collaboration among the health professions specialties. Flexible classrooms have been designed for student engagement and distance-learning opportunities.
“This collaborative, state-of-the-art space will unite the College of Health Professions’ skilled faculty, staff and students under one roof for the first time in its 50-year history,” said Michael Rao, Ph.D., president of VCU and VCU Health System. “The combination of these talented people along with the college’s nationally top-ranked programs put VCU on the path to becoming the premier academic health center on the East Coast.”
Cecil Drain, Ph.D., dean of the College of Health Professions, led the push for the new building. The ribbon cutting also marks Drain’s retirement after a 22-year tenure as dean.
“Health professions, such as nurse anesthesia, physical and occupational therapy and radiation sciences, comprise more than 60 percent of the health care workforce,” Drain said. “This new building will enable the college to provide a consistent supply of excellent practitioners to address ongoing patient needs.”
Marsha Rappley, M.D., senior vice president for health sciences at VCU and CEO of VCU Health System, celebrated the building as an opportunity to provide collaborative research and learning spaces, and simulation areas for experiential learning.
“Today, we open the doors to a new level of world-class learning to teach and train our future health care workforce,” Rappley said. “This space will provide our students and faculty with new research and learning opportunities, allowing them to do their exceptional work, together, for the very first time. With 75 percent of health professions students staying in Virginia upon graduation, this distinctively designed collaborative space ultimately benefits our communities and the lives of all we serve."
Programs in the College of Health Professions consistently rank among the best in the country. Five programs in the college are nationally ranked in the top 20 by U.S. News & World Report — Nurse Anesthesia (No. 1), Rehabilitation Counseling (No. 4), Health Care Management (No. 5), Occupational Therapy (No. 17) and Physical Therapy (No. 20).