IU Health Bloomington Regional Academic Health Center Groundbreaking

Henke Hall of Champions

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

IU President Michael A. McRobbie delivers a speech during the groundbreaking ceremony for the IU Health Bloomington Regional Academic Health Center on Jan. 16 at Henke Hall. Photo by Eric Rudd, IU Communications

The virtuous cycle

Today is a truly historic day for Bloomington and Southern Indiana, for today we will be breaking ground on what will be the beginning of a completely new era in health care in this region.

Today, we break ground on a new hospital that will replace the IU Health Bloomington Hospital, which was first established over 100 years ago in 1905. Breaking ground on a new hospital is momentous enough—it is said that the replacement of a hospital is a once-in-a-century event. But this will be more than a hospital. It will be, as is reflected in its name, an academic health center, one that will serve this region.

It has also been said that no factor has been more important in the extraordinary advancements that have been made in medical practice in the United States in the last century than the nation’s academic health centers.1 Academic health centers bring together a university’s research activities and the activities involved in training the next generation of health care professionals, with the clinical activities of a hospital in a way that is widely called a “virtuous cycle.” In such a virtuous cycle, the elements of the tripartite mission of education, research, and patient care are integrated and intermingled in a multitude of ways, and each informs the other to advance a unified purpose—that of outstanding health care based on some of the most advanced treatments and practices.

Academic health centers are the main places where much of the nation’s education of health care professionals takes place, and where the results of basic laboratory research in the health sciences are applied, trialed, and tested in a clinical setting. Academic health centers are also major economic engines that are often one of a state’s or region’s largest employers. In fact, Indiana University and IU Health are, when taken together, Indiana’s largest employer.

Expanding education

In April of 2015, I had the great pleasure of joining with the leaders of our close and vital partner, IU Health, to announce that the new IU Health Regional Academic Health Center would be located on the Bloomington campus along the 45/46 Bypass, on a highly accessible and beautiful site. We announced then that the Regional Academic Health Center would have two components—(1) the new 600,000 square foot IU Health Bloomington Hospital and (2) the new 115,000 square foot Indiana University Academic Health Sciences Building, that would bring together most of academic health science programs on the Bloomington campus into one place. It is, of course, the co-location and integration of these two facilities that will make them, combined, into an academic health center of over 700,000 square feet, one that will serve the region.

IU Bloomington’s extensive academic, research, and clinical health science programs are the largest in the state outside of Indianapolis. They include the Medical Sciences Program, which trains medical students in the IU School of Medicine, as well as programs in the Schools of Nursing, Social Work, Optometry and Public Health, and the highly-ranked Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences.

But these vital programs have long been constrained by space. The medical and nursing programs, in particular, have long suffered from aging and cramped facilities that are scattered around the Bloomington campus. Their current facilities constrain their capacity to expand enrollment, hamper their ability to offer modern training techniques, and limit faculty research space, and therefore, research opportunities and funding.

The colocation of these education programs into the new IU Academic Health Sciences Building will address these problems by providing new space and modern facilities that will allow us to considerably increase the number of students in these programs, thus helping to address the acute shortage of healthcare workers in the state. In particular, we expect to increase the number of medical and nursing students by over 50 percent in coming years. When complete, this building will house around 100 faculty and staff, and train about 1,000 students.

Colocation of these programs in the Regional Academic Health Center will also enable all the academic programs housed there to fully and effectively participate in interprofessional education activities, where students from different health science disciplines train together in the same way that they will work together when they graduate. Indiana University, though its Center for Interprofessional Education in the Office of the Vice President for University Clinical Affairs, is a national leader in this area, and this expertise will be central to the development of health science education programs based in the Center.

The Regional Academic Health Center, more generally, will allow us to establish new programs in areas of the health sciences not presently represented in Bloomington. In this context, I am very pleased to announce that IU’s School of Dentistry will be establishing a program in the Center on its completion, and we expect other new programs will also be established there when the Center is operational.

Catalyzing research

The new Academic Health Sciences Building and the Regional Academic Health Center more broadly, will also help IU maximize its full capacity for research in the health sciences.

As Paul Rothman, CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine, writes: “When it comes to solving vexing scientific and medical questions, no one has a better track record in producing outcomes …than this country’s academic health centers.”2

The new Center will address the longstanding need for additional research space, particularly in nursing and medicine. It will be a splendid home for many IU faculty and students who conduct biomedical, clinical, population-level, and health sciences research—and will help translate their discoveries into improved approaches to health and disease.

The Center’s proximity to IU’s technology park will also allow us to leverage one of the most advanced information technology environments in the world to support health sciences faculty research, and to offer state-of the-art training technologies to our students.

The Academic Health Sciences Building

The Academic Health Sciences Building represents a major commitment by Indiana University to the people of Bloomington and the region, and to their health and well-being. These are the people who, for nearly 200 years, have been among the most ardent, most passionate, and proudest supporters of Indiana University. And, of course, they are the most ardent, most passionate and proudest supporters of Hoosier athletics through thick and thin. So, it is only fitting that the new building should reflect this support. Thus, I am very pleased to announce that much of the cost of the Academic Health Sciences Building, a key part of the new Regional Academic Health Center, will be funded with revenue from the Big Ten Network. This is truly Hoosier Athletics giving back to the people of Bloomington and the region.

Special thanks

There are many people to whom I want to extend thanks today. First, to Matt Bailey, president of IU Bloomington Hospital; to Dennis Murphy, president and CEO of IU Health; to their respective predecessors Mark Moore and Dan Evans—under whose leadership the planning for this project began; and to their respective boards. IU Health and IU Health Bloomington Hospital have been—and will continue to be—great and essential partners in supporting Indiana University’s mission of educational and research excellence.

I also want to thank Provost Lauren Robel, Vice President for University Clinical Affairs and Dean of the IU School of Medicine, Jay Hess, Vice President for Capital Planning and Facilities, Tom Morrison, Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, Fred Glass, Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Health Sciences, David Daleke, and our many other Indiana University colleagues for their dedication and skill, but most importantly, for their commitment to the health and well-being of all Hoosiers, that has made this historic groundbreaking possible.

In addition, I want to congratulate both IU Health and the City of Bloomington for recently reaching an agreement regarding the re-use and demolition of the existing 24-acre hospital site. Many cities and towns across the country have seen former hospital sites turn into abandoned eyesores. This will not happen in Bloomington thanks to this agreement.


The new Regional Academic Health Center will soon join the nation’s other outstanding academic health centers in leading the way in educating the next generation of health professionals and making scientific breakthroughs that will lead to new diagnostic and therapeutic procedures.

We greatly look forward to working in continued close partnership with IU Health and Bloomington Hospital to support the highest quality health sciences research, clinical care, and education that together comprise the “virtuous cycle” of academic health centers—all with the goal of improving the health and well-being of the people of Bloomington, of this region, of Indiana and beyond.

Thank you very much.

Source Notes

  1. Kenneth Ludmerer, Time to Heal: American Medical Education from the Turn of the Century to the Era of Managed Care, (Oxford University Press, 1999), xix.
  2. Paul B. Rothman, Edward D. Miller, Landon S. King, and Ellen F. Gibson, “The Changing Ivory Tower: Balancing Mission and Business,” in Steven Wartman (ed.), The Transformation of Academic Health Centers: Meeting the Challenges of Healthcare’s Changing Landscape, (Academic Press, 2015), 10.