Surgical technology students at Blue Ridge Community College in Hendersonville.
Surgical technology students at Blue Ridge Community College in Hendersonville learn proper procedures and techniques by working with a simulation cadaver. Wingate University has moved its Doctor of Pharmacy and Masters in Physician Assistant Studies Programs to the center. Courtesy of Golden LEAF

A unique partnership between Blue Ridge Community College, Wingate University, Pardee Hospital, Henderson County and Hendersonville worked to design a multidisciplinary Health Sciences Center to improve the lives of Western North Carolina residents. The center serves a unique blend of learners, professionals, patients and community.

“For any large endeavor to be successful, strong partnerships are needed,” said Dr. Kurt Wargo, Regional Dean and Associate Professor of Pharmacy at Wingate University’s Hendersonville Health Sciences Center.

“We were lucky enough to enter the project of the Health Sciences Center with four of our greatest partners: Pardee Hospital, Blue Ridge Community College, Henderson County, and the City of Hendersonville. Without even one of these key partners, this project would have been exceedingly difficult for us.” 

The 100,000 square-foot Health Sciences Center was completed in the fall of 2016 and features a state-of-the-art clinical simulation laboratory.

The Health Sciences Center allows healthcare students and professionals to develop and apply practical skills in a simulated environment. The enhanced training opportunities prepares students for the industry’s high paying jobs, which helps boost the local economy and encourages future investment in the region.

Golden LEAF provided a $1,087,500 grant to BRCC for simulation lab equipment to support the Health Sciences Center. 

With the expanded space, the community college was able to add new programs, grow existing programs and house all health-related fields under one roof. Enrollment has grown as interest in the community has increased. 

“The Health Sciences facility is beyond the hopes and dreams of a small community,” said Jay Alley, Dean of Health Sciences and Emergency Services at BRCC.

“Our state-of-the-art Simlab is drawing in more students as well as fostering community interest. The Simlab helps us create real health scenarios students may never see during hospital clinical sessions. The result is we are turning out more students ready for work.”

“In both programs, students have clinical experiences at Pardee Hospital, including within the Cancer Treatment facility in the Health Sciences Center,” said Wargo. “Upon graduation, our students have had the experiences necessary in order to compete for positions available at Pardee Hospital.”

The Pardee Cancer Center and Pardee Surgical Associates are located in the Health Sciences Center.

“Pardee is actively recruiting graduates of these programs, collaborating on staff development and evaluating research opportunities,” said Johnna Reed, Chief Administrative Officer at Pardee UNC Health Care. “Pardee provides clinical rotations (for the partnering programs) and hopes to create future community programs targeting population health.”

The partnership’s success in just a year’s time is a strong foundation for future collaboration, Wargo said.

“We are actively working with BRCC to determine ways in which we can continue to partner in educational opportunities,” he said. “We look forward to ways in which we can improve the education of our students to make our graduates even more appealing to employers like Pardee.” 

BRCC reports most of its health care students are hired locally. Wingate graduates are finding jobs in the region as well.

“The bottom line is this partnership was embarked upon to improve the lives of the citizens of Western North Carolina,” Wargo said. “Over 50 percent of our pharmacy graduates, and nearly 100 percent of our PA graduates have accepted working positions in western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, and upstate South Carolina. These numbers speak volumes to the impact we are having on the lives of the people of Appalachia.”

Editor’s note: Golden LEAF Communications Officer Jenny Tinklepaugh originally wrote this article for the organization’s newsletter. Carolina Public Press uses it with Golden LEAF’s permission.

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