By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Construction and fundraising continue on Itawamba Community College’s new Health Science Education Center, which is expected to be open for classes by August 2013.
Construction could even be completed as soon as December, if it isn’t slowed by poor weather, said Itawamba Community College President David Cole.
A shell of red metal beams already forms an outline of the new structure on College View Drive on the college’s Tupelo campus, near the Lee County School District’s Central Office building.
When completed, it will allow the college to cluster eight health programs in one place and near their primary clinical training site – North Mississippi Medical Center.
“It really has to do with quality, efficiencies and service to the students,” Cole said. “Students can have better access to cross-training, and they will be better served at the Tupelo site because of the proximity to where they would do clinical rotations.”
The building’s $15.2 million price tag includes technology, furnishings and construction. It will be funded with a variety of sources, including a three-year $8 million capital campaign that Cole said is progressing slowly. Thus far, $1.5 million has been pledged.
“The funding process has turned out to be quite a challenge,” Cole said. “It is hard to stir loyalty and passion for a community college philanthropy.”
The college also has received a $2 million pledge from the Gilmore Foundation and $3 million from other health care sources.
The project also has been boosted by a $1.2 million federal earmark acquired by former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers and a $100,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission for technology, Cole said. Any remaining balance would come from a combination of ICC Foundation funds and college funds.
“People are giving at unprecedented levels to the institutions of their choice,” Cole said. “We are hoping to get ICC’s name on that list.”
The 80,000-square-foot, two-story building will house programs for associate degree nursing, health-information technology, licensed practical nursing, occupational therapy assistant, physical therapist assistant, radiologic technology, respiratory care and surgical technology. Those programs are currently spread out among the college’s Fulton, Tupelo and Belden campuses.
The building also is designed for flexibility, with room for between 20 and 25 percent growth in the future.
Cole has emphasized that the new center will play an important role in the viability of the health care industry in the region.
ICC’s fundraising campaign is the largest capital campaign conducted by a Mississippi community college. It is co-chaired by three individuals with a strong interest in the health industry and economic development: Dr. Ed Hill, directory of the NMMC Family Medicine Residency Center; Harry Martin, president emeritus of the Community Development Foundation; and David Rumbarger, president/CEO of the CDF.
“I think our ability to train medical technicians and medical personnel at a level of competency within the region will be a key to our continued success in health care in this area,” Rumbarger said. “We’ve had a phenomenal track record, but just because we have done so well in the past, it is a competitive market, and ICC will do nothing but increase our competitiveness.”
An official groundbreaking ceremony was held in late October.