Celebrating a historic day
Today is a truly historic day for Bloomington and Southern Indiana, for with today’s dedication of the Health Sciences Building, we celebrate the beginning of a completely new era in health care in this region.
IU’s splendid new Health Sciences Building is co-located with the nearly completed new IU Health Bloomington Hospital, which will open in the fall, and which will replace the current hospital facility that was established in 1905, with the oldest parts of its present complex dating back to 1947. It is said that the replacement of a hospital is a once-in-a-century event. But this project is about more than just a hospital. The building we dedicate today, together with the new hospital, will comprise a vibrant new academic health center, one that will serve this region in countless ways.
Dr. Kenneth Ludmerer, a scholar of the history of medical education in the United States, writes that "No factor has been more important to the achievements of medical practice in the United States than the country's academic health centers. Their importance," he continues, "lies in the education of the nation's (healthcare providers), the generation of new medical knowledge, the introduction and evaluation of innovative clinical practices, and the provision of the most sophisticated medical care available."
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. Thus, the missions 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.
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 here on the Bloomington campus, along the 45/46 Bypass, on this highly accessible and beautiful site. We announced then that the Regional Academic Health Center would have two components—the new 600,000 square foot IU Health Bloomington Hospital, and the new 115,000 square foot Indiana University Health Sciences Building that we are dedicating today, which has brought most of the academic health science programs on the Bloomington campus together into one place.
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, Public Health, and the highly-ranked Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences.
But these vital programs had long been constrained by space. The medical and nursing programs, in particular, had long suffered from aging and cramped facilities that were scattered around the Bloomington campus. Their former facilities constrained their capacity to expand enrollment, hampered their ability to offer modern training techniques, and limited faculty research space, and therefore, research opportunities and funding.
The colocation of these education programs into the new IU Health Sciences Building has addressed 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. At full capacity, this splendid new building will house around 100 faculty and staff, and train about 1,000 students.
The colocation of these programs in the Regional Academic Health Center will also enable all the academic programs housed here 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 has been—and will continue to 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, possibly including the IU School of Dentistry and other programs.
The new 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 a report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine noted, academic health centers have been major contributors to “the enormous strides made by research in the past decades, especially those of basic scientific research. …(They) and their parent universities play a critical role in the long-term basic research that makes future innovations possible.” 
The building we dedicate today is already addressing the longstanding need for additional research space, particularly in nursing and medicine. And it will help translate the discoveries of IU faculty and students who are conducting biomedical, clinical, health sciences, and population-level research into new diagnostic and therapeutic procedures and new treatments for disease.
The center’s proximity to IU’s technology park also allows 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 Health Sciences Building
The new 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.
Students, faculty, and staff began to move into the new building in February of this year.
There are many people to whom I want to extend thanks today. First, to Dennis Murphy, president and CEO of IU Health, who is with us today and from who we will hear in a few moments; to his predecessor Dan Evans—under whose leadership the planning for the Regional Academic Health Center project began; and to the members of the Board of Directors of IU Health. IU Health has been—and will continue to be—a great and essential partner 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 Provost for Graduate Education and Health Sciences, David Daleke, and our many other Indiana University colleagues for their dedication and skill that have helped make this new facility possible, but most importantly, for their commitment to the health and well-being of all Hoosiers.
With the opening of the new hospital later this year, the new Regional Academic Health Center will 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 improve healthcare in ways that we can only begin to imagine.
The faculty, students, and staff who now have a home in this splendid new building—and all of us at IU—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—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.
- Kenneth M. Ludmerer, Time to Heal: American Medical Education from the Turn of the Century to the End of Managed Care, (Oxford University Press, 1999), xix.
- Linda Kohn (ed.), Academic Health Centers: Leading Change in the 21st Century, (The National Academies Press, 2004), 77-78.