Coe dedicates center that connects students to health care

Coe College President David Hayes speaks Thursday during the dedication of the David and Janice McInally Center for Health and Community at Coe College in northeast Cedar Rapids. The $2.6 million facility will offer healthcare education to students regardless of their major, including minors in health and social studies, as well as student partnerships at facilities in the Cedar Rapids MedQuarter. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Janice McInally (left) and her husband, David, along with his mother, Barbara, chat with friends Thursday in the Dr. Timothy and Laura Sagers classroom at the David and Janice McInally Center for Health and Society at Coe College. The $2.6 million facility will offer health education to students regardless of their major. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — At the northern border of Cedar Rapids’ 55-square-block MedQuarter — complete with two major hospitals and more than 500 doctors, dentists and other providers — is the Coe College campus, which now includes a center that helps students studying any major connection to the health care profession.

With just weeks of work to go before the David and Janice McInally Center for Health and Society officially begins teaching all students who follow pre-health pathways or have health-related interests, Coe on Thursday night celebrated the $2.8 million project dollar with dedication.

“The Center for Health and Society has opportunities for any major company to connect with allied health fields,” Coe President David Hayes told The Gazette at the event. “And because it’s such a large part of our society — 19 percent of our economy is health-based and health-related — literally any Kohawk who wants to be a part of the health ecosystem can come to Coe and connect with all of our many partners here at MedQuarter.”

Coe College — Cedar Rapids’ 171-year-old private liberal arts college offering 50 undergraduate degrees and 14 pre-professional programs — reported a total enrollment of 1,266 this fall, the lowest level in at least a decade and a 12 percent drop from a fall high of 1,436 of 2014

Among his undergraduate majors are biology, chemistry, neurology, nursing, and other related fields of study directly related to health care. Among its pre-professional programs are pre-medicine, pre-pharmacy, pre-physical therapy, pre-physician assistant, pre-podiatry, pre-public health, pre-dental, pre-athletic training and pre-music therapy.

“We think it’s going to be a very attractive opportunity for future Kohawks,” Hayes said of the center.

Among other things, the new facility includes a dedicated space for a 3D anatomy and dissection table.

“(The center) creates a dedicated space for advising, mentoring and preparation for students pursuing clinical health professions as well as those interested in careers in other fields essential to the growing health care industry,” officials said of the college to The Gazette in an emailed statement.

Coe paid for the $2.8 million project with private donations — including significant gifts from the Esther and Robert Armstrong Charitable Trust, the Roy J. Carver and a $700,000 grant from the Hall-Perrin Foundation of Cedar Rapids.

The 10,342-square-foot project, which broke ground a year ago in September 2021, included 3,671 square feet of renovated space and new construction totaling 6,671 square feet.

A national board of advisors guides the Coe Center, promoting collaboration between local and national health care providers. Board members include Tanager Place CEO Okpara Rice; Mercy Medical Center President and CEO Tim Charles; and UnityPoint Health-St. Luke President and CEO Michelle Nierman.

That group and the center she directs aim to position Coe as “the preferred liberal arts choice for prospective pre-health students and help expand health-related graduate outcomes with enhanced networking and advising.”

They also tout the center’s ability to provide students with “entry points into the healthcare industry,” a fast-growing field expected to add 2.6 million jobs by 2030, and to build connections with businesses and professionals across the MedQuarter.

“Coe students will shadow and intern at local health care organizations, creating a potential pool of health care workers for the area,” officials said, citing an existing nursing staffing agreement with Mercy and St. Luke’s.

The center also facilitates guest lectures and public health events.

“Any major at Coe College can lead to a career in health, care, wellbeing or healthcare,” officials said.

Art majors, for example, can learn medical illustration; religion majors can study the role spirituality plays in healing; and business majors could pursue health care administration, according to Coe.

In addition to its 10 health-related pre-professional programs and more than 10 science and social science majors, Coe has a minor in health and society.

“One of (the center’s) goals is to prepare students for traditional and non-traditional health care careers,” officials said. “This can range from fields you might normally think of, such as doctors, nurses and dentists, to medical writers, hospital administrators and medical technology development.”

Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.

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