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Injecting Phoenix with medicine

(Image Courtesy of CO Architects / Ayers Saint Gross)
(Image Courtesy of CO Architects / Ayers Saint Gross)

Construction of a $187 million, 268,000-square-foot biomedical academic and research facility could begin near the Downtown campus this month as part of an expansion project that will double the number of medical students in Phoenix.

Through UA College of Medicine-Phoenix — a collaboration between UA and ASU — the project, called the Phoenix Biomedical Campus, is an attempt by all three Arizona universities to offer more medical programs for students.

“What you are going to see is an expanded medical school,” College of Medicine spokesperson Al Bravo said.

The plans were approved by the state Tuesday, allowing the Arizona Board of Regents to approve beginning to develop the new building, called the Health Science Education Building.

The facilities will be completed in August 2012, ABOR spokeswoman Jennifer Grentz said.

Like UA, ASU and NAU have programs already in the area.

“ASU College of Nursing is two blocks away [from the planned location] and UA has a strong presence in the area with the availability of programs,” Bravo said. “This is going to be a great addition.”

The new building is expected to double the number of medical students in the Phoenix area from 48 to 100, Bravo said.

The new facility will offer programs geared toward many medical fields, including in professions that Arizona lacks the most.

Grentz said Arizona is below the national average in its number of registered nurses, physicians, paramedics and related medical professionals.

One of the biggest benefits of the new facility and the Phoenix Biomedical Campus is that students will be working collaboratively and cross training within the professions, Bravo said.

“Just like the real world where you have doctors working with nurses ... students are going to be able to mingle and get a look at everything the campus has to offer,” Bravo said.

ABOR outlined details for the biomedical expansion in August 2004, describing it as the “significantly expanded presence of the UA’s college of medicine in Phoenix, with two synergistically related campuses, involving faculty from both the UA and ASU.”

The memorandum called the new campus the best strategic choice to advance Arizona’s health care needs and its expansion of biomedical education, research and technology.

Bravo said this vision is coming into focus and nearing completion after six years of planning.

“There is a possibility that within five years the Arizona Cancer Center, a clinical facility, will be here as well,” Bravo said.

The new building, a collaborative effort within the university system, is funded primarily from Arizona State Lottery revenue, covering 80 percent of the cost by 2016. The university system will pay interest payments until that time.

“The [lottery] pool gets distributed to things like schools ... and because that money is financed, we are not going to pull from those funds until 2016,” Bravo said.

The remaining 20 percent of funding comes from bonds and building grants that are separate from the general fund — state allocations that have been reduced for several years in a row by the Arizona Legislature.

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