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WCC Celebrates Growth with Health Science Building Groundbreaking


Dothan, Ala. – Wallace Community College-Dothan recently held a groundbreaking ceremony on the Wallace Campus in Dothan to celebrate a major addition to the College's profile: the Health Science Building. 

The 98,371 square foot, three-story, three-wing structure will be the new home to all nursing and allied health programs. Scheduled for completion in 2016, the Health Science Building will dramatically change the College's skyline.  But it's the story – and the purpose – behind the building that will make it extraordinary. 
WCC President Dr. Linda C. Young opened the groundbreaking by acknowledging the College’s role. “We are this community’s Community College,” she said. “This is a day for which we have waited for so long.” The audience of faculty, staff, students, legislators, and others agreed. 

Beginning in 1952 with the first Practical Nursing class, WCC has trained 13,125 nurses and allied health professionals. Today, the College has seven fully-accredited programs: Associate Degree Nursing (RN), Emergency Medical Services, Medical Assisting, Physical Therapist Assistant, Practical Nursing (LPN), Radiologic Technology, and Respiratory Therapist. The programs are currently spread across campus in separate buildings. The Health Science Building will incorporate them in the same building, encouraging interdisciplinary training and shared resources. The College also has an RN to BSN Mobility path for RN’s who want to continue their education. 

In his remarks to the audience, Gov. Robert Bentley spoke to the heart of why this building is so important: The students. As a physician, he told them that medicine is the greatest calling that anyone could have. “There is not a greater honor than to help people in one of the most vulnerable times of their life,” he said. He told them that, in addition to their training, they will learn to be leaders in their field and in the community. 

Dr. Mark Heinrich, Chancellor of the Alabama Community College System, lauded the building and the “exceptional vision” that will grow programs that are already cutting edge. “Wallace Community College has one of the largest collection of simulators in the state. If you haven’t visited the simulation lab, I encourage you to do so,” he remarked. Heinrich expressed gratitude to lawmakers for helping to make the project possible. 

Healthcare workers typically enjoy good wages for skills learned in challenging courses of study, and many began their education at a community college. “In high demand areas of Alabama, RN’s earn a median income of $66,000, said Ron Fantroy, ACCS Board of Trustees representative for the second district from Evergreen. He said that 45.6% of the three million Licensed Practical Nurses nationwide earned their degree from a community college. Likewise, 56.4% of RN’s received their education from a community college. Blake McAnally, ACCS Board of Trustees At Large representative from Decatur, also attended the event. Both Fantroy and McAnally stayed for a tour of the College after the groundbreaking.

Growing the health science programs at WCC is important to area employers as well. Both Flowers Hospital and Southeast Alabama Medical Center (SAMC) were represented during the groundbreaking. A well-trained, local workforce is imperative to both institutions. 

Dan Cumbie, Chief Nursing officer at Flowers, is a WCC alumnus. “Between 75 to 80% of our nurses, therapists, and technicians received their training at Wallace,” he said. “Patients expect two things: The attitude and the aptitude to do the job. Wallace does both.” Ron Owen, CEO of SAMC and President of the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine (ACOM), said 60% of SAMC’s nurses come through Wallace. “We’ve had a partnership for years,” he remarked. “It’s a lifeline for the Medical Center. It’s key for us being able to staff our hospital.”

Dothan Mayor Mike Schmitz agreed with the impact on the workforce, and stressed the impact of healthcare to the area’s economy: “Healthcare is the #1 employer in Houston County, providing 17,000 jobs.” That’s good for the tax base. He also remarked that healthcare education is a draw when recruiting business for the area. “We mention Wallace Community College, Troy, and ACOM first when we talk to potential employers.” 

When completed, the new building will have classrooms, computer labs, skills labs, patient rooms, an emergency room lab, a mock apartment, x-ray rooms, CPR labs, officers, resource labs, simulation labs, and control rooms. A safe room has been designed into the project. The room will withstand a 200 mph wind load and will accommodate 1,352 people.

The $22 million building is funded by a $10 million bond issue and WCC reserves. Lynn Bell, WCC dean of business affairs, remarked that the College had planned and saved for years to make the building a reality.

“We recognize and embrace our roles as a primary educator of allied health and nursing professionals,” said Dr. Young. Approximately 40% of students enrolled at WCC are enrolled in a healthcare or pre-healthcare program. The College also offers non-credit courses in certified nursing assistant, dental assistant, medical coding, and ophthalmic assistant. Students have used these courses as gateways to credit healthcare courses. 

Amid the background noise of construction and applause, Dr. Young, Gov. Bentley, Chancellor Heinrich, and Mr. Fantroy revealed the rendering of the new Health Science Building. A beautiful structure, and one that represents so much promise of growth to the community. 

After the building is complete, it’s the students who train for their healthcare disciplines who will stand tall.   

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