Digging In and Rising Up

Norton Gift 

A $5 million gift from Doris Norton will support construction of the new Creighton University Health Sciences – Phoenix campus and students entering the nursing field.

Digging In and Rising Up

A new Creighton health sciences campus begins to take form in Phoenix

At the controls of an excavator, Creighton University President the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD, smiled as he raised and lowered the machine’s front shovel, helping to usher in a new era of health care education and delivery in Phoenix.

“Today marks a monumental development in Creighton’s storied history of health sciences education,” said Fr. Hendrickson at the Sept. 25 ceremonial groundbreaking for Creighton’s new Health Sciences – Phoenix Campus.

He added that the $100 million, 180,000-square-foot campus — scheduled to open in fall 2021 at Park Central in midtown Phoenix — represents a “shared step forward” for Creighton and its Phoenix health care partners in addressing the critical need for more health service providers in Phoenix, Maricopa County and all of Arizona.

“We are honored to be playing a major role in the dramatic transformation that is about to take place on Arizona’s health care landscape, and to be doing so on one of Phoenix’s most iconic properties,” Fr. Hendrickson said.

The event drew dignitaries from throughout the Phoenix-metro area, including Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted, who offered his prayers and blessings.

The campus will eventually serve nearly 900 students, invigorating Arizona’s health infrastructure with physicians, nurses, pharmacists, physician assistants, physical therapists, occupational therapists and more — each educated in Creighton’s distinctive Jesuit, Catholic mission of service.

Creighton’s infusion of health care professionals comes at a crucial time for Arizona, which faces a health care workforce shortage.

“We know in order to meet our growing demands — and the demands are great — Arizona needs to grow our supply of health care professionals,” said Gov. Ducey, “and that’s exactly what this new campus will help us do.

“From medicine and occupational therapy to nursing and so much more, the next generation of health sciences professionals will be trained right here. And Arizona couldn’t be more excited for all that’s yet to come.”

Mayor Gallego praised the project for bringing “values-driven education” to the city in needed health care professions. “We have a lot of opportunity and need for your graduates,” she said. “I am thrilled to be talking about values-driven education and building a healthier Phoenix.”

Fr. Hendrickson acknowledged the philanthropic support for the new campus and its students, highlighting a $10 million gift from the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust (for which the building will be named) and a $5 million gift from Phoenix philanthropist Doris Norton.

Robert “Bo” Dunlay, MD’81, dean of the Creighton University School of Medicine, praised the collaborative nature of the project, including Creighton’s long-standing relationship with its health care partners in Phoenix.

For more than a decade, Creighton has been sending medical students to Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center for rotations, and, in 2009, Creighton teamed with St. Joseph’s to establish a School of Medicine in Phoenix. More recently, Creighton and St. Joseph’s partnered with District Medical Group and Valleywise Health (formerly MIHS) to form the Creighton University Arizona Health Education Alliance.

Linda Hunt, chief executive officer for Dignity Health Arizona, which includes St. Joseph’s and four other hospitals, said the new campus fulfills a longtime dream for Dignity Health leaders.

“We had a dream years ago to find a Catholic partner that could offer medical education training to students,” she said. “Today, we are realizing that dream for Dignity Health and St. Joseph’s Hospital. This creates a place where students can be educated, with a strong spiritual component.”  

Kote Chundu, president and CEO of District Medical Group; Michael White, BS’96, MD’01, MBA’19, Valleywise executive vice president and chief medical officer; and Steve Purves, president and CEO of Valleywise Health, also expressed their excitement with the partnership and the coming campus.

“Our innovative Creighton Alliance will ensure that this health sciences campus and medical school provides exceptional student clinical training experiences, which are second to none,” Purves said.

Creighton alumna Sharon Harper, BA’69, who has played a pivotal role as chief executive officer of locally based Plaza Companies, which is working with another developer to redevelop Park Central, described the health sciences campus as “transformational.”

In addition to addressing a demand for health care professionals, Creighton’s expansion is projected to create more than 250 jobs; $124.5 million in personal income; $12 million in tax revenues and more than $300 million in total economic output.

Randy Richardson, MD, dean of the Creighton University School of Medicine – Phoenix, said the new campus is the “culmination of so many people’s efforts, from the program directors, clerkship directors, clinical professionals, faculty and, of course, students. I can’t overemphasize the students.”

One of those students, Jaclyn Lundberg, a fourth-year Creighton medical student completing her education in Phoenix, spoke at the ceremony.

“I chose Creighton University because I wanted a medical education that extended well beyond the medicine — to the whole person,” Lundberg said. “And I have not been disappointed. To me, a Creighton physician cares for all aspects of patients’ lives, with excellence, and most importantly, humility.

“We, as students, receive that same type of personal care. The support and mentorship we receive from our professors is unparalleled to other programs.”

She cited a clerkship director, a mentor, who encouraged her and gave her “permission to be great.” She said when she was struggling to decide on a medical specialty, he told her that even if you’re reaching for a star, if you reach a little higher, you might discover a whole solar system.

“Today, I would like to pay that message forward,” Lundberg said. “Creighton’s growing presence in Phoenix is good. Let’s give ourselves permission to be great. … Let this be the first step in reaching for the stars, and maybe we will find an entire galaxy.

A Timeline of Care in Omaha, Phoenix

While Creighton is growing its health sciences presence in Phoenix, the home campus programs are as strong as ever. The Omaha campus offers dentistry, emergency medical services, nursing, medicine, occupational therapy, physical therapy, pharmacy and physician assistant programs.

Competition is fierce for Creighton health programs, with applications far exceeding available spots in most cases. For example, the School of Medicine had 6,376 applicants for 167 openings this academic year. And students come from all over — students in the School of Pharmacy and Health Professions this year came from 46 states and 44 countries. Creighton is predicted to become the largest Catholic health professions educator in the country by 2025.

Clinical opportunities for students abound — through CHI Health, Creighton’s primary clinical partner in Nebraska and western Iowa — and now in Arizona with partners in the Creighton University Arizona Health Education Alliance. Below are key dates in Creighton’s health professions history.



Tracing its roots to St. Joseph’s Mercy Hospital, which opened in 1870, Creighton Memorial St. Joseph Hospital opens in Omaha, built by John Creighton in memory of his late wife, Sarah Emily. Creighton launched medical education the same year, with the hospital the site for clinical training


School of Dentistry and School of Pharmacy is established. The pharmacy school would later become the School of Pharmacy and Health Professions and add programs in occupational therapy, physical therapy and emergency medical services


John A. Creighton Medical College becomes the Creighton College of Medicine


Students are accepted into the new four-year baccalaureate nursing program


Accelerated nursing program launches, one of the first in the nation


St. Joseph Hospital (which later becomes Creighton University Medical Center and then CHI Health Creighton University Medical Center) opens at 601 N. 30th St., the largest private construction project in Nebraska


St. Joseph Hospital is purchased by American Medical International (AMI)


AMI merges with another hospital operator to form Tenet Healthcare. At the same time, Creighton purchases 26% of the hospital and becomes part owner


Creighton and Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center agree to medical students spending one-month rotations in Phoenix


Campus in Phoenix at St. Joseph’s opens, offering two full years of clinical medical training


Alegent Health acquires Creighton University Medical Center, renames its Omaha-area health system Alegent Creighton Health; Alegent Creighton Health merges with CHI Nebraska, eventually renamed CHI Health (2014). The new system becomes Creighton’s primary clinical teaching partner in Omaha


CHI Health and Creighton open a novel new academic health center with two campuses — CHI Health Creighton University Medical Center–University Campus for ambulatory services and CHI Health Creighton University Medical Center–Bergan Mercy for inpatient services


Creighton University Arizona Health Education Alliance is formed


College of Nursing admits students to new accelerated nursing program in Phoenix


Physician assistant program is established in Omaha, and construction begins on the new campus in Phoenix