Southern proceeding with ‘transformational’ Health Science Innovation Center | Education

A $30 million health education building, proposed for construction from late 2023 to early 2025, will emphasize Missouri Southern State University’s commitment to health education and health science.

It will also drastically change the appearance of the campus if it is built according to current plans.

Renderings of the new Health Science Innovation Center show a large building featuring Southern’s traditional brick front with white columns occupying a dominant spot front and center of the campus oval, where most of the original buildings on the campus stand.

The building would face the main parking lot and Newman Road and eliminate a stretch of International Avenue, the street that currently crosses the front of the campus oval.

It will place the new building in front of three of the original campus buildings — Hearnes Hall, Spiva Library and the Reynolds Hall — built almost 56 years ago.

“We view this as a truly transformational project for Missouri Southern,” MSSU President Dean Van Galen said. “It closes in the oval. We have an interest in being a more pedestrian-friendly campus and as one of our strengths, this kind of putting health education front and center. We have to go through the design process, but this is really what we’re envisioning.”

Cost sharing

Van Galen, Executive Vice President Brad Hodson, and other representatives of the university and the Missouri Southern Foundation have been working to raise the $15 million needed to match a $15 million state appropriation signed by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson earlier this year.

On Tuesday, the Carthage City Council approved a grant from the McCune-Brooks Hospital Trust for $375,000.

Van Galen said on Friday that the university had pledges amounting to $6.7 million for the building.

“The funds for this project need to be expanded by 2026, so we have a few years to continue with the fundraising,” said Van Galen. “But we have a number of proposals out there at this time, so it would certainly be our hope that within a year we would achieve that goal. I’m optimistic about that.”

Van Galen said he plans to approach the Missouri Southern Board of Governors sometime in 2023 for approval to proceed with the design of the building.

“That’s, of course, step one,” Van Galen said. “That would enable us to better define a scope and work with our campus and our partners on the design of the building. We would plan to start construction in late 2023 and complete construction in early 2025. Our goal would be to open the Health Science Innovation Center no later than fall of 2025.”

Programs and services

Van Galen said the heart of the center would be a simulated hospital with rooms and equipment that would likely be encountered in a real hospital, including acute care, labor and delivery, emergency care and examination rooms.

He said it would expand on some of the simulation rooms already offered in the Julio S. Léon Health Science Center.

“It would be of much greater scope than we have now and also support immersive learning, which is one of the university’s strengths,” Van Galen said. “So you can envision a group of nursing students being presented with a case, there would be a meeting before going into the simulation hospital to look at the patients or patients involved and then they would move into the simulation hospital, which is really a very real-world, lifelike hospital space, so they would have tremendous hands-on experience which would prepare them very well for their careers.”

He said plans call for the building to also house a radiological technology lab, an expanded cadaver lab and research space that can be used in collaboration with other educational partners.

“The Health Science Innovation Center is primarily a hands-on learning space, so there will not be many offices or classrooms in the building,” Van Galen said.

Van Galen said he thought the center would be used by students in medical fields as well as other career tracks.

“The facility will be used by students of many different majors and backgrounds,” he said. “Certainly nursing, respiratory therapy, emergency management, students interested in a medical or dental degree will use it. Our MKEAP (MSSU-KCU Early Acceptance Program) students — what used to be ‘Yours to Lose’ — would certainly take classes in that facility, they’d use the cadaver lab. and I think there are opportunities to think more broadly about how those spaces can be used in programs such as social work, kinesiology. In the end it will be a campus-wide resource and also a resource for the community.

“We’d like to strengthen our partnerships not only with Kansas City University but with Freeman and Mercy as a potential training and education site for the entire region.”

Van Galen said the new center will build on MSSU’s and the region’s strength as a growing center for health care services and education.

“We view this as a truly transformational project for Missouri Southern,” he said.