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WCC Health Science Building Honors Heersink Family

4/17/2019

When construction began in 2015 on a building to hold the health science programs at Wallace Community College-Dothan, students, faculty, and staff knew that big changes were coming. They accommodated teams of surveyors, heavy equipment, landscapers, painters, and construction workers. Designated parking areas moved in tandem with the building’s progress. In 2016, construction was completed and the programs moved into their designated classrooms. The three-story structure was a goal that the College had planned for years. It became known as the Health Science Building.
 
Now, with generous support from a local physician, the building has a new name – the Heersink Family Health Science Building, in honor of Dr. Marnix Heersink and his family. The College officially revealed the name during a ceremony on April 11. Equally important, Wallace has a new partner in the education of the healthcare workforce in Southeast Alabama. 

Dr. Heersink, who has practiced ophthalmology in Dothan since 1978, has long held an interest in the mission of the College and wanted to collaborate with Wallace’s Health Science Programs. After a meeting with Wallace President Dr. Linda Young and Suzanne Woods, CEO of Medical Center Enterprise and Chair of the Wallace Foundation, the Heersink family looked for ways to form a partnership with the College. The result was a $1.1 million endowment that will fund scholarships through the Wallace Foundation.  

“We celebrate the naming of a facility that has truly transformed the College,” said Wallace President Dr. Linda Young. “Wallace is proud to honor Dr. Heersink and his family for their generous donation in support of current and future students. What this endowment will give to students is immeasurable. The impact on the students is what is phenomenal.”

The opportunity to contribute to Wallace and its students became a project for the Heersink family. 

“Wallace is an amazing opportunity for us as a family,” said Dr. Heersink. “We feel connected to the future of students who are here. We are honored that we have an opportunity to be a part of this growth,” he said. Dr. Heersink also complimented the College’s healthcare programs. “These programs are outstanding. Students have an amazing opportunity for growth by attending these programs.”

The Heersink’s relationship with the College goes back to 1978. Dr. Heersink and his wife, Mary, moved to Dothan as a newly married couple. Two years later with a baby boy, Mary decided she needed to prepare for emergencies. “She became a student again,” said Dr. Heersink. “She enrolled in Wallace’s EMT program, and the training proved to be excellent.” Because of her training, Mrs. Heersink knew how to react to emergencies over the years with a growing family. Fifteen years ago, Dr. Heersink collaborated with Wallace to develop an Eye Care Assistant program, a short-term healthcare program designed to funnel trained technicians to ophthalmologists’ and optometrists’ practices. 

Mrs. Woods has been a friend to the Heersink family since 1983 when she moved to Dothan and attended the same church. Her deep relationship and respect for the Heersinks was evident in her introductory remarks at the naming ceremony. In fact, Mrs. Heersink befriended her and asked if she could help with her children during the summer – the Heersinks have six children, five sons and one daughter. “We had a lot of fun,” said Mrs. Woods. “The great part is that I got to experience the love from this family. I am blessed to know Dr. Heersink as a caring human being. They have been blessed, and they are using that blessing to help others.”

Alabama Community College Chancellor Jimmy Baker also spoke during the ceremony, complimenting the Wallace health science programs and their contribution to the healthcare workforce in the area and a portion of the local economy.  About 40% of Wallace students are health science or pre-health science majors. 

The Heersink Family Health Science Building houses Wallace’s seven health science programs, including Associate Degree Nursing, Emergency Medical Services, Medical Assisting, Physical Therapist Assistant, Practical Nursing, Radiologic Technology, and Respiratory Therapist. In fall 2019, Wallace-Dothan plans to add a Surgical Technology program. The Heersink family visited all of the programs and the Health Science Simulation Center in the afternoon. 

“Bricks and mortar, as beautiful as this building is, does not take care of people. People take care of people. That’s what happens here on a daily basis,” said Mrs. Woods. 

The Wallace health science programs are ready for the next group of students with a partnership to help students achieve a career for their lifetime.

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