St. Ambrose's growing role in educating health-care providers will be even more evident to the Quad City community this summer, when work begins on a 13,000-square foot addition to the university's Center for Health Sciences Education at Genesis.
Construction of a two-story addition to the three-year-old building will begin in midsummer. Work is scheduled to be completed by March 2014, in time to welcome the first cohort for the Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) program in June.
When completed, the addition will serve as another milestone moment for that important addition to the St. Ambrose curriculum.
Sandra Cassady, PhD, dean of the College of Health and Human Services, and program director Clare Kennedy, MPAS, PAS-C, submitted an official application for accreditation in February to the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant. Evaluators from the commission are scheduled to make an on-site visit in April. Provisional accreditation could be granted in the fall.
The new wing will be built on the north end of the building, and further signals the university's intent to field a top-flight MPAS program.
"The building was constructed so we could easily expand it when new programs came along," said Sister Joan Lescinski CSJ, president of St. Ambrose University. "We are eager to move forward with this important new program."
The Center for Health Sciences Education was dedicated in August of 2010 to serve as home for the university's academic programs in nursing, occupational therapy and physical therapy.
Those growing programs also will benefit from the additional space. The Doctor of Physical Therapy program has grown by six students per cohort and the Master of Occupational Therapy program has added two students per cohort since 2010, Cassady said. In addition, 70 first-year students enrolled this past fall with an interest in nursing majors. Transfer students also will increase the enrollment in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.
Mike Poster, vice president for finance, said the DPT and MOT programs also have impacted undergraduate enrollment, as first-year students enroll with an eye on post-graduate degrees.
"These are clearly flagship programs," he said, noting the university's profile in the health sciences has grown throughout Iowa and Illinois. "These are two states where the demand is significant for physician assistants and graduates of the other health care programs we have. We are educating professionals to fill those needs."
St. Ambrose will be the third university in Iowa to offer a physician assistant degree, and the need for physician assistants continues to grow. Kennedy said St. Ambrose is among nearly 60 schools nationwide now seeking accreditation.
When complete, the new addition to the Center for Health Sciences (CHHS) will include a 78-seat tiered auditorium classroom that will allow the College of Health and Human Services to fill a growing need for inter-professional health-care education.
"There's a plan that our physician assistant students will take a class with the DPT students as part of both curriculums," Cassady said of promoting a team approach to patient care. "We just want to do more toward bringing the different health sciences students into the learning experience together."
The new wing also will feature a 40-seat clinical lab, eight exam rooms, and a pair of rooms that will allow additional use of the six computerized mannequin simulators introduced by the CHHS over a year ago.