Mearns: NKU's $97M Innovation Center more than a building

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Northern Kentucky University leaders see the development of a Health Innovation Center as more than a gleaming $97 million building in the heart of the Highland Heights campus.
They – along with Gov. Steve Beshear and regional health care industry officials – see an opportunity to provide a new approach to education and health care delivery.
NKU hosted a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday morning to mark the start of construction on the Health Innovation Center. The center will be the first new academic building built on campus since Griffin Hall, home of the College of Informatics, was completed in October 2011. The project includes building a new 95,492-square-foot facility and renovating the 111,639-square-foot Founders Hall, which is the second-oldest academic building at the university.
Planning for the new center's development at NKU launched more than 10 years ago. Soon, Northern Kentucky business leaders will be able to check this project off their list of regional priorities.
“We are proud to lead the way, with the help and support of our partners in Frankfort and in our local community,” NKU President Geoffrey Mearns said.
When the Health Innovation Center opens in 2018, it will be home to NKU's College of Health Professions. The facility will allow NKU to expand existing academic programs and add new ones.
The center will bring together experts from NKU's six colleges to create interdisciplinary teams to study health care from different perspectives. The approach calls for combining data analytics, psychology, preventative care, and holistic approaches to address wide-ranging health challenges that millions of people face such as addiction and chronic illness.
NKU’s Center for Economic Analysis and Development recently completed a study that found Greater Cincinnati – based on its employment trends, population changes and growth from health care institutions – needs more than 50,000 new qualified health care workers by 2020.
“The future of population healthcare will increasingly depend upon gathering and analyzing data to determine which practices and policies are improving collective health outcomes,” said Dr. Dale Scalise Smith, dean of NKU's College of Health Professions. “Our innovative approach will be a model for other educational institutions and communities to emulate.”

Kentucky Gov. Steven L. Beshear, NKU President Geoffrey S. Mearns, and members of NKU’s Board of Regents break ground Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015 on the new Health Innovation Center. Pictured from left: Board Chairman Nathaniel G. Smith, Dennis Repenning (hidden), Lee Scheben, Arnie Slaughter, Mearns, Beshear, Katherine Hahnel, Andra S. Ward, and Terry L. Mann. (Photo: Provided/Northern Kentucky University)

Last year, the Kentucky General Assembly allocated $97 million its biennial budget for the project. St. Elizabeth Healthcare also has invested $8 million to equip the building with a two-story virtual care environment that will provide students experience and training across the continuum of care. A committee of business and healthcare leaders from around the region has been contributing to plans for the center since 2014.
“Through this new learning center, NKU is helping us improve our education programs to prepare our young leaders for the increasingly high-tech jobs of the 21st Century, and making Kentucky more competitive as companies seek out highly skilled, capable employees,” Beshear said. “Our future looks bright as we continue to partner with our higher education community to raise our education standards and rankings.”
CO Architects of Los Angeles and Downtown Cincinnati-based GBBN Architects designed the facility. The Cincinnati office of Turner Construction is managing the construction project.

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