GRAND RAPIDS — With construction of the $37.5 million Raleigh J. Finkelstein Hall and work set to begin later this year on another facility along the Medical Mile, Grand Valley State University expects to expand its health care programs.
High-demand health professions such as nursing, physician assistants, physical therapy and occupational therapy are some of the programs where GVSU may add capacity over the next few years, said President Tom Haas.
“We’re going to continue to invest in this space,” Haas said during the annual presentation of GVSU’s HealthCheck report, which analyzes trends in the local health care industry. “We are trying to provide the relevant talent for you all to carry out your particular missions.”
In a follow-up interview, Haas also cited the possibility of GVSU forming doctorates in audiology and occupational therapy over the next five years, as well as offering new degrees in genetic counseling, health information and therapeutic recreation.
The additional degrees and academic capacity come in response to a growing demand from health care providers in the region, Haas said. He wants GVSU to remain the “go-to place” for training future talent for local care providers.
“We’re listening and responding to the need of our community here in West Michigan, Grand Rapids and well beyond,” Haas said. “To create the learning environment, we’re investing in some of those buildings and what’s going inside with our curriculum and technology.”
Finkelstein Hall, which is scheduled to open in May, and the planned facility at 330 Michigan Street — across the street from GVSU’s Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences — will provide the physical capacity for growing those academic offerings.
GVSU presently has about 2,300 students enrolled in degree programs for health professions. Haas expects enrollment to grow to 2,600 to 2,700 students within a few years.
The health professions Haas identified for potential expansion are among the fastest-growing careers in West Michigan.
The demand for physician assistants in Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon and Allegan counties is projected to grow 10 percent from 2018 to 2024, according to GVSU’s 2018 HealthCheck report. The demand for physical therapists will grow 12.1 percent over the same period, and occupational therapist jobs will grow a projected 9.1 percent, according to estimates in the HealthCheck report.
“The demand that we have here and see from our partners, they really need the type of talent that we’re producing,” Haas said.
The new buildings will complement the Cook-DeVos Center on the Medical Mile’s health care, research and education corridor, helping to create a broader campus for GVSU’s health programs.
GVSU expects to begin work on the unnamed facility by late fall and open it in 2021. The state Legislature has allocated $30 million to support the project, which will cost an estimated $65 million to $70 million, have 164,000 square feet of “very technically oriented space,” and stand four or five stories.
“It will be very much of a complement to Cook-DeVos,” with a bridge connecting the two, Haas said.
Along with the new facilities and expanded health profession programs, GVSU wants to develop more local partnerships with care providers.
Most recently, GVSU and Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital partnered on a motion analysis lab at the Cook-DeVos Center. The lab enables Mary Free Bed care providers to evaluate patients’ walking patterns to determine the best course of treatment, and provides a clinical setting in which GVSU’s nursing, therapy and non-clinical students can learn.
Under the long-standing partnership, Mary Free Bed annually provides more than $1 million in in-kind instruction to GVSU students.
The arrangement with Mary Free Bed is typical of the kinds of partnerships Haas wants GVSU to build with local health care organizations.
In developing new facilities, expanding academic programs, and forging additional partnerships, GVSU looks to retain as many health profession graduates as possible in West Michigan to work at local care providers.
“We want to keep the best and brightest right here to improve the health care delivery systems that we are fueling here at the university,” Haas said.