SCC Health Sciences Center is open to learning

Although students have enjoyed the amenities of the new Health Sciences Center at Southwestern Community College since the beginning of this school year, SCC staff and community members gathered last week for the official opening of the new building.

“This vision began in 2016 when the county government, along with the SCC, agreed to spend some money for a strategic master plan,” said College President Dr. Don Thomas. “And our first priority was building the health sciences.”

According to Thomas, the 55,411-square-foot building allows SCC to expand its health sciences programs from 14 to 16, with new programs in surgical technology and optometrist.

“We now have 16 programs, and you know, for a college of our size, we’re the only college in North Carolina that has 16 health sciences programs,” Thomas said.

The new building and additional programs mean that the college will be able to enroll more than 240 additional students in the Department of Health Sciences.

“This is the number of additional students we will be able to expand, to create and prepare a work force ready for work,” Thomas said. “This building allows our students and faculty to have access to educational equipment and technology that our students might not even see in clinics. It is state-of-the-art, and that is what interests us all.”

Some of the exciting resources for students and staff are full size simulated ambulance in EMS paramedic room, simulation labs, surgery room, delivery room similar to those in hospital, critical care room and autopsy table.

“I am very grateful for all that I have here,” said Heber Njeira, student representative on the SCC Board of Trustees. “The labs are identical to what they would be in real life scenarios. The teaching experience is exceptional. Everything is available in this building, we can use it globally. I will use the Anatomage table a lot, I am a PT student, but nursing students use it too.”

Funding the new Health Sciences Center was a broad effort involving members of the local community, county and state government. Commissioners Gayle Woody, Boyce Dietz and Mark Jones attended the open session, as well as representatives. Mike Clambett and Carl Gillespie.

The building cost about $21 million, plus the price of equipment and furnishings for the modern health center. The 2016 Connect NC bond secures $7.1 million in financing for repair, renovation, and construction projects. In May of that year, Jackson County approved a quarter-cent sales tax to provide additional funds to Jackson County public schools and the SCC. $2.6 million for equipment and furnishings has been raised with the help of the Board of Trustees, the Golden Leaf Foundation, the Bridge Foundation, the Nantahala Foundation, the Cashiers Highlands Health Foundation, the Dogwood Health Trust, the Cannon Foundation, the Great Smokies Health Foundation and the SCC Foundation.

“The people who helped build this building are the people whose homes you see above and below these streets and streams,” Dietz said. “When you pass through this building, we look out from the big windows and you look at the entire Balsam mountain range. Beautiful. And who we are. So much of this is for our people in the Balsam Mountains. Thank you all for letting us be a part of it. We are so happy as a county and as commissioners that we can do Little do we do.”

Led by founding program coordinator Melissa Daniels Dolan, the surgical technology is located on the third floor of the new building. The top level also hosts medical laboratory technology, medical assistance, anatomy and physiology laboratory, and faculty offices.

The second floor houses the latest medical training technology, as well as nursing, radiography, respiratory therapy and medical ultrasound programs. The Emergency Medical Sciences Program and Clinics are located on the first floor.

The new optometry program, along with existing programs such as health information technology and human services technology, remain in remodeled departments of the Balsam Center.

Thanks to everyone here…we are a community college,” Thomas said during the open house. “We are here to serve you. We are here to be a part of you. We are changing lives. Students who pass through our doors bring workforce skills ready for action.”

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