A 56% increase in dental hygiene students.
A 30% increase in nursing students.
A 29% increase in the number of students in social work and addictions counseling and prevention.
A 20% increase in the number of Physician Assistant students.
An 81% increase in the Masters in Public Health program.
A more than 100% increase in the number of medical laboratory science students.
That’s what the new School of Health Sciences building will bring to the University of South Dakota, SHU President Sheila Gestring said Thursday at a grand opening ceremony for the University of South Dakota. new building.
She addressed an audience gathered in a small courtyard located between the new structure and the Andrew E. Lee Memorial School of Medicine.
Gestring chose not to talk about bricks and mortar, but rather about the human impact the new structure will bring as the demand for healthcare professionals grows in the region.
Simply put, the new facility opened a gateway for new students to the Vermillion campus.
“We will have the capacity to enroll additional students to meet anticipated labor demand,” she said. “Our School of Health Sciences programs have grown and the need for these improved facilities has become increasingly evident.”
In the past, Gestring said, the university had to turn away students because the old facilities couldn’t accommodate larger classes.
“This facility offers the potential for significant enrollment increases in a number of high-needs areas of the state,” she said. “This is an incredible opportunity that will change the landscape of health care in South Dakota.”
Gestring said the new facility will prepare future South Dakota healthcare workers to provide expert patient-centered care.
“With this cutting-edge technology, lab simulation rooms, counseling therapy rooms, student collaboration spaces, and a community dental hygiene clinic, SHU has created the learning environment that replicates today’s team approach to health care delivery,” she said. said, adding that every health sciences program at SHU has met the state’s workforce needs.
“That’s why SHU has the only comprehensive school of health sciences in this state,” Gestring said.
Groundbreaking for the new $22.5 million School of Health Sciences building took place in the spring of 2021. The new three-story, 45,000 square foot building is connected to the medical school . Prior to its construction, the SHU School of Health Sciences had over 2,000 students, graduating 500 to 600 students each year, and offered 16 degree-granting programs.
Now that the USD will no longer have to turn away students interested in health science professions, those numbers are likely to increase.
Sources of the $22.5 million needed to construct the building include $5 million from the Legislature, $4.5 million from an anonymous donor, and the remainder from the Institutions of Higher Education Fund (HEFF) through the South Dakota Board of Regents.
Speakers at Thursday’s ceremony all took time to express their thanks to local legislators, regents, the governor and others who helped provide these resources.
The funding includes a $1 million gift from the Delta Dental of South Dakota Foundation for the university’s dental hygiene program. In honor of this donation, SHU’s new community dental hygiene clinic is called Delta Dental Oral Health Center.
The School of Health Sciences is home to programs that include Dental Hygiene, Nursing, Physician Assistant, Addiction Counseling and Prevention, Medical Laboratory Science, Public Health, and Health Sciences. health and social work.
Students enrolled in all of these programs are now learning together under one roof, Gestring said.
“Together they will not only work alongside each other, but also with our medical students,” she said. “It cannot be done everywhere. This can be done at SHU, home to South Dakota’s only medical school and comprehensive school of health sciences. Here, medical and health science students will learn to form a team from the very beginning and that’s what makes USD unique.
District 17 Representative Sydney Davis of Burbank said the shortage of healthcare workers and the “brain drain” – the migration of South Dakota’s best and brightest students. of South Dakota.
“I truly believe that investments like this will help attract and keep our South Dakota students to our state and show them that they can have it all here at the University of South Dakota,” he said. she stated. “With this investment, we are showing them that we value them, we value education and we value health care.”
Davis noted that the South Dakota legislature had a very small budget surplus in 2020.
“A good portion of that surplus – $5 million – was allocated to USD for the construction of this building,” she said. “It was no small feat…it was a huge effort on the part of community leaders, USD, the board and especially outgoing Senator Art Rusch.”
Rusch, of Vermillion, chose not to run. Davis was unopposed in his campaign for Rusch’s seat in the South Dakota Senate and will move from the State House to the Senate next year.
“I couldn’t be more grateful that the state legislature and the governor have decided to invest in health care and also in our state’s workforce,” Davis said.
“That building behind us is really a testament to the ‘many hands do light work’ model. It’s all true except for the light work part,” said South Dakota Board of Regents member Tim Rave. “It was only through the coordinated efforts of so many people and organizations that this project was possible.
“With all the challenges facing healthcare today, this brand new institution of learning is poised to educate the next generations of our healthcare providers,” he said.
Tim Ridgway, who is now vice president of health affairs at the University of South Dakota and dean of the Sanford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota, expressed his appreciation for past South Dakotans who had the foresight to expand medical school to a four-year program.
“It gave small-town kids in South Dakota, like me, the opportunity (to go to medical school in Vermillion),” he said, adding that he also had the opportunity to witness the construction, in recent years, of the new building of the medical school on the campus of the USD.
“Flash forward to today, and it’s really special to be able to look at these facilities and be proud, be grateful and also feel tremendous excitement for the students who have to come through these doors,” said Ridgway. .
He said it’s no coincidence that the new School of Health Sciences building and the Andrew E. Lee Memorial Medicine building, which houses the USD Sanford School of Medicine, are connected.
“It’s symbolic of the fact that in health care education, it’s about collaboration between our medical students and PA, our PA and occupational therapy, addiction studies, laboratory science medical – all things,” Ridgway said. “Health care in 2020 requires collaboration. There is such an explosion of knowledge.
“An individual cannot hope to own this, but with a team approach it can happen,” he said.
“It’s amazing to stand next to this building that was once just a vision,” said Haifa Samra, dean of the USD School of Health Sciences. “Our vision was to build a robust facility that supports students, faculty, and staff and inspires team-based learning, groundbreaking research, and innovative solutions to the toughest problems in healthcare.”
She noted that this vision could not have come true without the support of people who were in the audience watching a live video feed of Thursday’s ceremony.
“Today, the new School of Health Sciences building supports eight of USD’s fastest growing health majors,” Samra said. “We used to be scattered across campus, now we are together. In this new facility, our students can practice in a safe environment, interact with our expert faculty, and engage with each other.
The new building’s state-of-the-art labs and simulation rooms are spectacular, she said.
“They will provide our students with the practical experiences they will need to prepare for the next steps in their careers,” Samra said. “Our students will graduate ready to practice, ready to serve their patients and the industry as confident leaders in their field. They will achieve this through the excellent education offered only at the USD School of Health Sciences.
She encouraged members of the public to tour the new building after the grand opening ceremony.
“I hope you see what I see when I walk through the building: the future of healthcare…the future of healthcare at USD,” Samra said.