MSSU breaks ground on Roy Blunt Health Science Innovation Center | News

MSSU breaks ground on Roy Blunt Health Science Innovation Center | News

Thursday marked a milestone for Missouri Southern State University, said President Dean Van Galen, as he and others broke ground on the $42 million Roy Blunt Health Science Innovation Center.

“Today if you were to walk across campus, and see the construction fencing, it’s hard to imagine what we will see and experience 25 months from now,” Van Galen said. “But I can tell you this, the Roy Blunt Health Science Innovation Center will not only be a beautiful and iconic building. What goes on inside — the learning, the experiences, the relationships — will indeed shape and change lives.”

Van Galen said the project began in December 2021 when Missouri Gov. Mike Parson invited Missouri universities to submit requests for transformational capital projects. After talking with campus leaders, local employers and government officials, MSSU decided on the innovation center to put the university at the forefront of health sciences and support the health of the local community.

With the region’s set of assets — Kansas City University medical and dental schools, programs at MSSU and two major health systems — the focus on health care makes sense as MSSU looks to the future, Van Galen said.

If all goes as planned during the current legislative session, Parson and local elected officials will facilitate a $30 million investment from the state of Missouri for the project, he said.

There’s been a mix of state, federal and private financing for the project, slated for completion in July 2026. Private financing included a $1 million gift from Dr. Robert Willcoxon and his wife, Dot. Former U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, the building’s namesake, facilitated a $2 million grant of federal support for the university.

“In this moment, we gather to celebrate a milestone in the journey that will transform the educational experience of our students for generations to come,” Van Galen said.

Sherry Whiteman, department chair of Allied Health, detailed the features of the new health center.

“To me, this building is an outward demonstration of all the things I already know to be true about Missouri Southern,” Whiteman said. “The state-of-the-art facility helps students feel valued and seen. Students will feel prepared as they enter the simulation hospital with cutting-edge technology to learn all they need to know to care for their patients.”

Simulation hospital

The center will house a simulation hospital with labor and delivery, and critical care rooms where students can hone patient care skills. There will be equipment for X-rays, CAT scans and ultrasounds. On the first floor will be research lab spaces, classrooms and a model ambulance. The center will even have a large virtual reality room.

“This cutting-edge environment will give students simulation-based educational techniques and they will experience opportunities for targeted, immersive learning experiences,” Whiteman said. But that’s just one side of the building.

The east side of the building will house a welcome center, a coffee shop and study space for students. Described as the heart of campus, it will also have a community gathering space with rooms for seminars and educational events.

Ashley Cordischi, a senior nursing major at MSSU, served as the student representative on the campus committee advising about the center. She said her main concern was that the center improves clinical simulations, looking to bridge the gap between what’s theoretical and applying it to real-life practice.

“It’s been really exciting to go from just the ideas of what we want in the center, versus now when we’re at the groundbreaking,” Cordischi said.

The technology in the center will help transition what the students learn in the classroom to real life, she said.

Van Galen said he wanted to extend his personal thanks to Blunt for helping make the center possible. Beyond the $2 million federal grant, Van Galen also cited Blunt’s support of public education.

“Sen. Blunt’s life exemplifies public service,” Van Galen said. “He’s made a tremendous impact on Missouri, this part of the state and Southwest Missouri. He’s long been a champion of higher education.”

Health Science Summit

Blunt was the inaugural speaker for the Willcoxon Innovation in Health Sciences Summit, which followed Thursday’s groundbreaking. The two-day event will feature local health care providers talking about the future of health care.

During Blunt’s 12 years in the U.S. Senate and 14 years in the House of Representatives, he increased funding for the National Institutes of Health by nearly 60% and quintupled funding for Alzheimer’s research. He currently serves on the board of several medical advisory committees. He also served as president of Southwest Baptist University, his alma mater, from 1993 to 1996.

In his remarks, Blunt said health care is 20% of the national economy. As it affects so many families, it’s the most important thing in the world. The rapid pace of change is what makes MSSU’s health center necessary in the region.

“The building itself makes a commitment to keep Missouri Southern in the really important discussion about health care,” Blunt said. “The important discussion about health care is how much it’s changed. Health care has changed more in my lifetime than in the entire previous history of health care.”

How we look at health care today is totally different than it was even 20 years ago, Blunt said.

In the last 20 years, the human genome has been mapped, vaccines have been developed for diseases such as cervical cancer, rapid tests for tuberculosis were created, and mRNA technology advanced to the point that a COVID-19 vaccine could be developed 10 months into the pandemic.

“One of the great advantages of this new immersive facility is that you get to train in a facility that’s easy to keep up to date,” Blunt said.

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