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Health Sciences Expansion a Win for All

Our recently announced health-sciences initiative will provide powerful benefits - for Old Dominion University, for the community, even for people outside Hampton Roads.

The expansion at Old Dominion's Virginia Beach Higher Education Center will maximize our use of the center's 77,253 square feet and create synergies with the adjacent VaBeachBio corridor, which includes Sentara Healthcare, LifeNet Health, Operation Smile and Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters.

Residents will benefit from our plans to open a primary care clinic - including speech and physical therapy and behavioral health - and a substance abuse prevention center in Virginia Beach.

At the same time, we plan to construct a new $75 million health sciences building on our main campus. That will allow us enough room and technology to keep our highly competitive programs in Norfolk, such as dental hygiene and physical therapy, ahead of the curve.

The changes in Virginia Beach will begin this fall, with an increase in nursing classes and the opening of centers for telehealth and simulated patient training. All three hold exciting potential.

We'll be able to increase our nursing enrollment. That's important not just for Hampton Roads, but also for the Commonwealth. The prospect of a wave of nursing retirements threatens to reignite a nursing shortage in Virginia. Our nursing expansion will also expand or initiate programs in high-demand areas such as neonatal and pediatric nurse practitioners.

Both students and health-care professionals will sharpen their skills at our Center for Simulated and Standardized Patient Training, thereby improving their care of real patients.

Finally, the telehealth center positions Old Dominion to be an international leader in this cutting-edge field, which connects health-care providers and patients at a distance.

Telehealth offers the promise of better health care outcomes by improving access and timeliness and reducing costs. This should particularly benefit rural residents of Virginia and elsewhere, who tend to have more limited access to health care.

Our emphasis on telehealth seems like a natural progression for Old Dominion, a high-tech innovator that now provides online courses in more than 100 programs to students across the world.

I want to thank Austin Agho, the University's provost and vice president for academic affairs, and Karen Karlowicz, the chair of our School of Nursing, for helping pave the way for this significant development.

It is the latest example of Old Dominion's commitment to tackle pressing issues and solve real-world problems. We look forward to helping improve health care across the region and beyond.

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