Opinion: UCCS shows value of partnerships

More than 150 people gathered last week in a place most of them had never seen before, except from the outside. But that didn’t stop the crowd from sharing a tangible excitement.

They celebrated the opening of the Lane Center for Academic Health Services, a four-story, $18.5 million building just across North Nevada Avenue from the now-sprawling University Village Colorado shopping center.

The Lane Center, resulting from various partnerships with a primary focus on senior health care, shows a remarkable spirit of community cooperation. The most immediate benefit already has opened — the Lane Family Senior Health Clinic, run by Peak Vista Community Health Centers, furthering the well-established Peak Vista focus of providing care to those who face economic, insurance or other obstacles.

Having all that under the same roof could provide a model for the nation.

The 54,000-square-foot facility also houses fitness and wellness programs, generated and overseen by the UCCS Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences, the CU Aging Center and the Gerontology Center. The top floor will have the developing local branch of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, serving and educating medical students in their third and fourth years.

They’re calling it UCCS HealthCircle, including a Veterans Health and Trauma Clinic, the Center for Active Living and the Peak Nutrition Clinic. Having all that under the same roof could provide a model for similar projects across the nation.

Putting together the whole package, as UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak did from concept to reality in just a few years, is a story in itself. But it’s really just the first chapter in the more detailed plan for other medical facilities on the west end of the university campus.

Still to come will be the Sports Medicine Center, the school’s portion of City for Champions. Though C4C might be in the formative stages, the Sports Medicine Center is far closer to reality. With the tax-increment funding boost, it in all likelihood would become the first C4C venue to be built and operational.

As UCCS Senior Executive Vice Chancellor Brian Burnett pointed out, the Lane Center already has been designed with plans to adjoin the Sports Medicine building. In fact, Burnett said, UCCS has the option of putting the Sports Medicine Center either just southeast or north of the Lane Center. Either way, it would allow for sharing equipment and technology, not to mention more opportunities for those nursing and med students.

That begins to explain why the Lane Center ribbon-cutting attracted all nine CU regents, including Glen Gallegos making the drive from Grand Junction, as well as CU President Bruce Benson and top School of Medicine officials.

In fact, CU already has hired Dr. Erik Wallace as associate dean in charge of the local med-school branch, with plans for at least 24 (more later) students serving at Memorial Hospital as well as Penrose-St. Francis and other area facilities. Part of that idea, of course, is that some — perhaps many — of those fledgling physicians will stay and live here.

CU Regent Kyle Hybl tied it together eloquently, crediting Shockley-Zalabak with having pushed through 15 major projects in the past decade or so, costing a total of $300 million — but with only 12 percent of the funding from state government. The rest comes from partnerships, or as Hybl stated, “It’s not the buildings … it’s people and collaborations.”

And UCCS is just getting started.