A Transformational Moment

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A Transformational Moment

Creighton officially opens new $100 million health sciences campus in Phoenix

By Rick Davis, BA’88

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the $100 million, 95,000-square-foot Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust Health Sciences Building in midtown Phoenix this September signaled a new era for health care education in the American Southwest and for Creighton University.

With the official opening of the new Creighton University Health Sciences Campus – Phoenix, Creighton is now the largest Catholic health professions educator in the nation and the only one with two campuses.

“This is a transformational moment not only for Creighton University, but for all who have poured serious thought, effort, time, and resources into bringing this inspired vision to a bold reality,” said Creighton President the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD.

He cited the Creighton University Arizona Health Education Alliance, and the partners that provide Creighton students with essential hands-on patient care experiences: Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, Valleywise Health and District Medical Group.

Additionally, he said, Creighton enjoys a strong relationship with CommonSpirit Health, the nation’s largest Catholic health care system, which serves “as a model for professionalism and excellence, and to be sure, care and compassion.”

Among those attending the Sept. 9 ribbon-cutting ceremony were Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and the bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix, the Most Rev. Thomas Olmsted, along with generous benefactors, health care partners, Creighton trustees, University leadership and other dignitaries.

“It’s hard to believe that two years ago, we were standing here with shovels in our hands for the groundbreaking ceremony,” said Randy Richardson, MD, regional dean for the School of Medicine in Phoenix. “The day has finally arrived — a moment both long-awaited and now joyfully celebrated.”

The Phoenix campus is now home to a four-year medical school and Creighton programs in nursing, pharmacy and occupational therapy. Programs for physical therapists and physician assistants are to be added over the next couple of years. The campus is expected to serve some 900 students annually by 2024.

A Critical Need for Health Professionals in the Southwest

The growth of Creighton health sciences programs in Phoenix corresponds with a critical need for health professionals in the city, as well as the state of Arizona and wider Southwest.

Arizona currently ranks 44th out of 50 states in total active primary care physicians and surgeons. With the latest census data showing Phoenix as the fastest-growing city in the United States, and the population of Maricopa County expected to double by 2040, the need is acute for more health professionals now and in the future.

Mayor Gallego said she is well aware of the challenges.

“Every once in a while, I’ll have someone call me and say, ‘I have a great challenge, and I need your help as mayor,’” Gallego said. “And that challenge lately has been finding a primary care physician in the city of Phoenix.

“So I’m very grateful to have Creighton here and to have so many students who really care about serving their community and who are drawn to Creighton because of the values represented by this type of education.”

Gallego and Gov. Ducey said the city and state have invested in health care infrastructure and in health care professionals and are excited about the opening of Creighton’s Phoenix health sciences campus.

“The new campus, right here, will be critical in that effort of developing our future health care workforce,” said Ducey, himself a product of Jesuit education, a graduate of St. John’s Jesuit High School in Toledo, Ohio.

“Not only is Creighton providing aspiring medical professionals with world-class training, but they are also doing it through a Jesuit education,” he said. “I can say from firsthand experience that it’s the best education that a school can offer. Health care may be science-based but it’s a faith that guides many patients, families and people in need through their toughest challenges.”

Gallego also acknowledged Creighton’s values-based education and service to the community as important to her city.

“As we lead in cutting-edge areas, we also want to lead in caring for those facing great challenges, and I want to applaud the partnership between Creighton and St. Vincent de Paul, supported by the Piper Foundation,” she said. “We are judged as a community by how we care for everyone, and it’s a real credit to our city.”

Earlier this year, the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust announced it would invest $10 million in a collaboration between Creighton and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Phoenix to improve access and quality of care to those most in need. The partnership is designed to reduce growing health disparities that disproportionately affect low-income populations and people of color.

A Modern, Technologically Advanced Facility

A look inside the new Piper Health Sciences Building shows a modern, technologically advanced facility designed not only to provide the latest in health care education and training, but to foster Creighton’s pioneering efforts in interprofessional education.

“This new Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust Health Sciences Building is breathtaking and beautiful and contains some of the latest technology to educate and train health care providers on the cutting edge of their professions,” Fr. Hendrickson said.

“We have created a facility that will serve students, faculty, the health professions, and the Phoenix community exceptionally well in the decades to come,” added Catherine Todero, PhD, BSN’72, vice provost of Creighton’s health sciences campuses.

“We examined our educational, clinical and support processes to design the most innovative, effective and collaborative approaches we could envision.”

The building offers state-of-the-art active learning spaces; simulation rooms; a task training room; a standardized patient suite; and labs dedicated to gait and motion analysis, human performance, home care, rehabilitation, research and more.

It also offers special areas for renewal and building relationships, including a socialization lounge; a community ballroom; and a chapel where students of all faiths can reflect on the connectedness of their academic and spiritual lives.

“Most importantly,” Todero said, “it accommodates our interprofessional approach to health sciences education, with an overall emphasis on collaboration and consultation among disciplines, to achieve holistic, patient-centered care. It is this approach that distinguishes a Creighton health sciences education.”

Answering the Call

Even though the building is new, Creighton has enjoyed a long relationship with the city of Phoenix and area health care partners. The University has had medical students performing rotations in Phoenix for more than a decade.

Fr. Hendrickson said the University’s current partnership began in 2005 with a call from Linda Hunt, CEO of Dignity Health, who shared her concerns that Phoenix was lagging in the number of health care workers available to care for its citizens.

“Creighton answered that call,” Fr. Hendrickson said, which led to hundreds of calls between health care providers; government officials; nonprofit agencies; local, state and regional contractors; philanthropists; educators; and others, all with a shared conviction to increase the number of health care workers in the region.

“Today, we celebrate a relationship we all have built together — step by step, side by side — based on our mutual concern and our shared successes,” Fr. Hendrickson said. “Creighton University extends profound appreciation to all of our partners for their visionary investments. Your faith and belief in this vision have led us to this point in time.”

Making the Dream a Reality

In the past two years, community partners have made a series of transformative gifts to Creighton’s Phoenix campus. More than $40 million in gifts jumpstarted one of the most exciting moments in the University’s history. These donors helped a dream take shape.

  • The Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust contributed $25 million toward the building’s construction and endowed programs that will help the Phoenix campus collaborate with nonprofits in Maricopa County, such as St. Vincent de Paul, to train health professionals and improve care for uninsured, underrepresented communities in the area.
  • Dignity Health made a major gift to establish an endowed fund that will support up to 100 full-tuition scholarships over the next decade for students from diverse, underrepresented backgrounds.
  • The Norton Family Living Trust gave $5 million to Creighton, toward the Phoenix campus facility and an endowed scholarship program.
  • The Maricopa County Industrial Development Authority gave $2.5 million to support development of the Phoenix campus.
  • The Del E. Webb Foundation gave $1.5 million toward a learning commons in the Piper Health Sciences Building.
  • The Shoen Family gave $1 million to dedicate the building’s St. Ignatius Chapel in honor of Anna Mary Carty Shoen.
  • The Peter Kiewit Foundation contributed $1 million toward the new campus.

Gifts of all sizes continue to make a difference for Creighton’s Phoenix campus. Learn more at alumni.creighton.edu/phoenixcampus.