What is behind the vision of Rick Mooma’s Center for Health Sciences?

Rick Mooma, president of Wichita State University, has his roots in an eighth-grade choir class in Houston for the idea of ​​building a health science center in the heart of Wichita.

Rick Mooma, president of Wichita State University, has his roots in an eighth-grade choir class in Houston for the idea of ​​building a health science center in the heart of Wichita.

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What does a 1970s Houston choir teacher have to do with a proposed $300 million health science center in downtown Wichita?

A good amount, after all.

Rick Mooma, president of Wichita State University, was in eighth grade and was in a Houston public school choir class. His teacher announced he was retiring to become a physician’s assistant, a relatively new career at the time.

Muma himself became a PA. He eventually earned a master’s degree in public health from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. This center is located at the Texas Medical Center, which serves as a kind of model for the proposed center he endorses here.

Texas Medical Center has more than 2 square miles of medical institutions, including MD Anderson Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine, and Texas A&M College of Medicine, often linked together. A pioneer in open-heart surgery and heart bypass surgery, Muma says, “The medical environment is truly fulfilling.”

Muma, who was born in Wichita, knew that something similar was needed here when she returned to the WSU faculty in 1994.

“I was a little shocked about things like the lack of coordinated care in cities…as seen in the Health Science Center…why not work more closely, why classrooms?” I have always wondered why not combine our efforts, not only in the simulation space, but also in the way we educate individuals in a clinical setting.”

Muma says life in general and specific medical problems are too complex to be handled by one area or one method.

“Many methods and studies have shown that interprofessional training improves patient outcomes when it puts entire teams at their disposal and learns to treat and rally around patients. ”

Pandemic impact

About four years ago, when Muma was president, he began discussing more integrated learning at WSU and working with the University of Kansas Medical Center and the KU School of Medicine in Wichita. Wichita facility itself.

Discussions continued and included WSU Tech. Then came the pandemic.

“Of course, COVID has made us think about how we should do more than just healthcare,” Muma said.

He was proud that WSU’s Medical Laboratory Sciences division had launched a molecular diagnostics laboratory for COVID-19 testing in just a few months. But he wondered what would have happened if WSU already had a partner like his KU.

“Had we all been together, we could have better served our healthcare needs during the pandemic.”

Along with new thinking came new public funding through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

Muma said one of the purposes of the funding is “how we can come out of this post-COVID environment in a way that is beneficial to our community.”

He said WSU and KU have approached Congress about accessing ARPA funding.

There is still a lot of work to be done

WSU and KU also have a $60 million request to strengthen the people and revitalize Kansas, the statewide group that distributes ARPA funds. The schools are also asking the state legislature for $10 million each to guarantee the center’s expected $300 million. Bonds are similar to mortgages.

“We still have to do the heavy lifting to increase efficiency and identify spaces that can be shared and leveraged in that way, which can make the space a little smaller,” says Muma.

Plans call for WSU to refocus on Physician Assistant and Physical Therapy Programs, School of Nursing, Communication Sciences and Disability Programs, Public Health Sciences Programs, Medical Laboratory Sciences Programs, and possibly Dental Health Programs.

KU plans to move its medical and pharmacy faculties into the center along with four clinics.

For WSU Tech, the move includes Certified Nursing Aides, Certified Medication Aides, Home Health Care Aides, Practical Nurses, Emergency Medical Technicians, Registered Nurses, Patient Care Technicians, Surgical Tech, Medical Administration and A program for management may be included.

Comcare in Sedgwick County, the county’s outpatient mental health facility, may become part of the center at some point.

No location was chosen, but the center is most likely downtown, perhaps around the area near William and Topeka where the Wichita Transit leaves for its new home in Delano.

“If you go look for a facility like this, it’s right in the center of town,” Muma said.

“Good access to Kellogg’s . . . and Douglas of course. It’s centrally located. There’s infrastructure in development there, there’s housing there, and there’s an entity that helps support students once they get there.” .”

Rick Mooma, president of Wichita State University, has his roots in an eighth-grade choir class in Houston for the idea of ​​building a health science center in the heart of Wichita.Travis Haying wichita eagle

Also adjacent to WSU Tech’s Culinary School and Kansas Osteopathy College.

Muma said discussions for the science center began before the osteopathy school was envisioned, but he has regular talks with the school and can imagine one day having a role in the science center as well. Told.

“It’s great to have them there,” Mooma said. “This is the beginning of a true holistic science center. And that’s how we solve the problem — when we bring people together. You don’t do it yourself.

‘Incredibly transformative’

Muma has first-hand knowledge of the Houston and St. Louis Health Science Centers, but the Phoenix Bioscience Core is a recent development, so she continues to research. He made two of his visits, one with a legislative contingent and one with Robert Simari, the Vice Chancellor of the KU Medical Center.

David Krietor, executive director of biosciences, was impressed that the two senior executives “did this together, explored this opportunity, asked questions about what worked and what didn’t.” I was. He was even impressed that they always sat next to each other.

“I want to take a picture and send it to my family.”

What eventually became the Bioscience Core began in 2004 with the move to get the first medical school in Phoenix. Later came the Health Science Center, home to the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and Northern Arizona University respectively.

According to Krietor, Muma and Simari had many technical problems. For example, cost sharing accounting, such as which entity pays what percentage of basic things like building security, landscaping, and faculty sharing.

He said the investigation was “the best thing they’ve done and probably should have spent a little more time in the first place.”

From 1992 to 1997, Krietor was Director of Economic Development for the City of Phoenix, “one of the most suburban places.”

He was concerned that a viable downtown would never materialize, but the Bioscience Core would attract young people to work and study there, resulting in the development of new dining, music and sports opportunities. said it has changed.

“It’s so cool here,” said the creator. “Something I didn’t really expect to happen is taking off.”

Jeff Fluor, president of the Greater Wichita Partnership, believes Wichita’s core has the same potential.

“This could be the biggest investment in Downtown’s history. It’s amazing, because where will it go next?”

Wichita State University president Rick Mooma and others working on a new health science center have identified a downtown corridor looking for a center of about 500,000 square feet. Courtesy illustration

Fluhr calls the Health Science Center an “incredibly transformative project” not only for the city center, but also for the region and state.

In addition to bringing 1,600 new jobs downtown and adding another 200 faculty members and 3,000 students, Fluhr said the center “will help people outside the area see how we can work together.” It’s a big indicator of how well you do and do great things.”

Innovation campus leads the way

WSU and KU hope to secure funding for the Health Science Center this year, design it in 2023, start construction in 2024, and complete it by 2026, which should use some of the ARPA funding. is.

Muma is confident in both his partnership with KU and his own school’s ability to bring the center to life.

“One of the things I think helps all of this is what we did with the Innovation Campus,” he said of the 130-acre site that houses 50 partners, including businesses, organizations and restaurants.

“The university has obviously changed a lot in the last decade, and I think we’ve proven to this community that we can put things together in a very short order.”

Muma is already thinking about future stages of the center, including more research and testing.

“Obviously, when you bring these disciplines and universities together, you get more grants and .

One of Muma’s future scenarios could involve out-of-state agencies.

But first, Muma said: So it will be difficult. There is no way around it. ”

He knows others are questioning whether the center will ever become a reality.

That negativity “really distracts from what we’re trying to do here, but I’m only traveling around the country and visiting colleges and this was long ago, many other places, I We know it’s been done in cities our size, bigger cities…or smaller.

“We can do this.”

Carrie Rangers has been a reporter for over 30 years, including almost 20 years with the Wichita Eagle. Have you heard of her?Business Her scoop column runs five days a week at Eagle. If you have any tips, email or tweet her, or call 316-268-6340.

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