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NKU Announces $8 Million Gift from St. E., Gives First Look at New Health Innovation Center

Northern Kentucky University announced a gift of $8 million from St. Elizabeth Healthcare during a special celebration at the Votruba Student Union.

The gift will be applied to the university's ambitious new Health Innovation Center, renderings of which were revealed to the public for the first time.

“This generous investment will benefit our students, faculty, and the community for years to come,” NKU President Geoff Mearns said. “Today we celebrate our partnership with St. Elizabeth Healthcare and this new step we take together to lead with excellence and leave a lasting impact upon healthcare in our region, the Commonwealth, and the nation.”

The $8 million investment directly supports the design and construction of simulation facilities, including a two-story comprehensive virtual care environment that will provide students with an active learning experience and training across the continuum of care. This simulation area will be named the St. Elizabeth Healthcare Simulation Center.

“The ongoing education and training for our staff and clinicians is of utmost importance to us,” said St. E. CEO Garren Colvin said. “From our partnership with the Mayo Clinic to this investment in the Health Innovation Center at NKU, we are dedicated to providing best-in-class healthcare to our region. I believe this Center will be a model to be emulated across the country.”

The high-tech simulation center will include simulation space, clinical skills suites, nursing skills suites, imaging suites, and classroom and collaborative spaces. It will also provide cutting-edge simulation equipment to help students learn real-world skills in a safe environment. The center will be outfitted with video recording capabilities to aid in the learning experience.

The gift is the first to the Health Innovation Center and the second-largest gift in NKU’s 48-year history.

The Health Innovation Center is funded by a $97 million allocation from the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The project will include construction of a new facility and the renovation of Founders Hall, the second-oldest academic building at NKU.

The Health Innovation Center will offer a new, cross-functional educational experience where students and faculty from various colleges and disciplines will address population health management issues and seek new solutions to the health and wellness challenges we face today.  A committee of business and healthcare leaders from across the region has been contributing to the plans for the Center since 2014.  

The Health Innovation Center is expected to open in 2018. A groundbreaking ceremony will be held this fall.

New academic programs to be part of new facility

Prior to Wednesday's gift announcement, Provost Sue Ott Rowlands joined Mearns for a presentation to the university's Board of Regents. A series of slides depicting the new Health Innovation Center and the transformation of Founders Hall were displayed, showing sleek modern design with warm, inviting elements. 

Much of the classroom space will be flexible for unique teaching and learning arrangements, or to provide real-world experience for students in health care studies. Programs will be added or expanded with minimal or no additional resources pulled from faculty, Rowlands said.

"The Health Innovation Center gives us an opportunity to expand our workforce development efforts to meet the needs of our region," Rowlands said. The university has assembled an external committee that has offered guidance and feedback on the types of programs needed to produce the types of employees sought by the impacted industries. 

The programs are also being designed to meet the specific needs of the Northern Kentucky region, such as a new minor in addictions science, a direct response to the region's battle against heroin use.

Other programs in the pipeline, to be introduced in the coming years, include a doctoral degree in occupational or physical therapy; master's degrees in exercise science, Kinesiology, health care leadership and policy studies; bachelor's degrees in neuroscience, health informatics, health promotion and communication; and certificates in childhood wellness & parenting, and health communication.

Mearns said that the new construction will result in "an extraordinary array of sophisticated rooms". 

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher