LINCOLN – Calling it a transformational development for health care in Nebraska, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents on Thursday accepted the intermediate design review of the UNK-UNMC Rural Health Education Building planned for construction in Kearney.
The regents also approved the budget for the project at $95 million by incorporating $10 million in state funding to be used for special equipment for the facility on the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus.
Construction on the building is set to begin this fall, with completion targeted for late 2025 and occupancy for early 2026.
“The regents’ action today is a crucial next step in the growing partnership between the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Nebraska at Kearney,” said UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold. “This is about more than a building – this new learning space in rural Nebraska will allow UNMC to expand its health programming at the UNK campus, so students can study medicine, pharmacy and other new programs that were previously unavailable in central Nebraska.
“The result will be greater opportunity for Nebraska students, more graduates coming into the health professions workforce from a rural campus and, assuredly, a positive impact on the state’s future rural health workforce.”
When the Rural Health Education Building opens, not only will medical, public health and pharmacy students be able to attend class on the Kearney campus for the first time, but existing allied health and nursing students will enjoy expanded class and program offerings.
“By investing in the creation of our new Rural Health Education Building, we’re not just constructing a facility; we’re cultivating a future where dedicated health care professionals are equipped to address Nebraska’s rural health care needs,” said UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen. “This initiative symbolizes our commitment to empowering our state’s talent to serve their own communities, fostering a healthier and stronger Nebraska for generations to come.”
The regents’ action gives a final nod to the project and sends a strong message about the continued commitment of the University of Nebraska System to address the state’s health care workforce needs, said Nicole Carritt, director of rural health initiatives and interim assistant vice chancellor for health workforce education relations at UNMC.
“The project’s completion will result in more health care professionals trained to meet the unique healthcare needs of rural populations and be a link to vibrant and healthy rural communities in Nebraska and beyond,” Carritt said.
The building will expand on the success of the Health Science Education Complex at UNK, another UNK-UNMC collaboration, opened in 2015, which has seen 85% of its graduates start their careers in rural Nebraska.
Kaitlyn Schultis, a current medical student at UNMC and a UNK graduate from Diller, said she is “incredibly excited” about the Rural Health Education Building collaboration.
“This initiative directly addresses the shortage of health care professionals in our rural areas,” said Schultis, the UNMC Student Senate president and student regent. “Growing up in a rural community, I have seen this struggle. This partnership brings specialized health care programs to our doorstep.”
The former Kearney Health Opportunities Program student called the expansion, especially the education of future physicians in rural Nebraska, “a game-changer, tailoring medical education to the unique needs of the patient population that makes up the majority of Nebraskans.
“This isn’t just about education – the focus on research and continuing education shows a holistic commitment to bettering lives,” she said. “The Rural Health Education Building is set to make a lasting impact, transforming health care in rural Nebraska, and I could not be prouder to be a part of it.”
There will be a groundbreaking ceremony for the new building on Sept. 5.