Hunt Nursing School good fit with medical goal

August 21, 2013

One can look at the new building at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center as the piece that makes it all fit -- the Medical Center of the Americas concept, that is.

The Gayle Greve Hunt School of Nursing connects the classroom to the clinical; it combines two academic disciplines that are our medical goal of being the leader in border-related health care and health research. It's a 34,000 square foot space that includes labs, classrooms and collaborative learning between medical students, nursing students and researchers. The dean is Jeanne Novotny.

Construction has begun across from the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine in Central El Paso and adjacent to both University Medical Center and the El Paso Children's Hospital. The scheduled completion date is November 2014.

Besides the long-planned-for classroom and research space, the Health Sciences Center will produce much-needed nurses. There is a nationwide shortage of nurses. And in five years, it's hoped there will be 600 nursing students enrolled, along with 400 medical students. El Paso can be a big help to the nursing shortage, especially since the University of Texas at El Paso also graduates skilled professionals in that field.

Seed money for the nursing school, amounting to $10 million, came from the local Hunt Family Foundation. Presently the nursing school is located in a leased building near Downtown on Yandell. The Gayle Greve Hunt school/research facility has long been seen as the piece that makes the Health Sciences Center whole. It's the building sought after for several years. The first big step was accreditation of the four-year Foster School of Medicine. And recently the Texas Legislature granted the Health Sciences Center stand-alone status as its own university. It's no longer a satellite of Texas Tech University in Lubbock, much like UTEP is a stand-alone in the University of Texas System.

Novotny makes a good point in that the nursing school is not only close to the medical school on its campus, but it's right across the street from the expanding UMC and the new children's hospital. "We will be close to the medical school and the Biomedical Graduate Program, so we'll be able to do a lot of interdisciplinary work, which is critical for health care in the 21st century," she said.

The focus will remain on researching preventive methods, along with care, for border-related diseases, one of which is our high rate of diabetes. The goal is to get research business, along with the pharmaceutical industry, to set up on the perimeters of the Texas Tech/UMC campuses. One such research building has been announced, MCA Tech Park Inc. It's a subsidiary of the MCA Foundation. This four-story biomedical innovation center got its seed money from local businessman Jack Cardwell. Ground breaking for the Cardwell Collaborative is slated for the first half of 2014.

The MCA concept began some 20 years ago. And as each year passes, more and more elements are being added. This week, it's construction of the Gayle Greve Hunt School of Nursing, and next year it's the Cardwell Collaborative.