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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Major Health Sciences Expansion in VABeachBio Corridor Announced

By Jon Cawley

To embrace emerging technologies and address a critical shortage of health-care providers in the Commonwealth, Old Dominion University will significantly expand its health sciences programs at the Virginia Beach Higher Education Center beginning this fall.

The move will complement ODU's health-sciences presence in Norfolk, introducing high-demand graduate programs in Virginia Beach such as telehealth, while enlarging other programs in the Schools of Nursing and Community & Environmental Health within the College of Health Sciences. The expansion will bring an additional 850 students and 62 faculty members to the Virginia Beach center.

In addition, Old Dominion expects to open a primary-care clinic, a substance abuse prevention center and a training center for patient simulation in Virginia Beach.

"Mayor Sessoms and the City of Virginia Beach have been steadfast supporters of Old Dominion's expansion in the VABeachBio corridor, and we are eager to advance our mutual mission to serve our community's needs today while providing world-class academic and research opportunities for the health-care practitioners of tomorrow," Old Dominion University President John R. Broderick said. "I am confident this initiative will position ODU and Hampton Roads for national prominence in health-care innovation, research, telehealth and simulation technology. This initiative could not have moved along this efficiently without the leadership of the University's provost, Austin Agho, and the chair of our School of Nursing, Karen Karlowicz."

Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms said he was "delighted" to announce the expansion of programs that, "will focus on emerging technologies and will reduce the persistent critical shortage of health care providers in Virginia."

"Virginia Beach is becoming a higher education powerhouse," he said.

Old Dominion also plans to construct a new $75 million health sciences building on the University's main campus in Norfolk in the next several years to further expand its health sciences offerings.

Old Dominion has maintained a presence in Virginia Beach for 30 years. Its Higher Education Center is adjacent to Tidewater Community College.

"The new initiative in Virginia Beach will strengthen the University's position in the VABeachBio innovation corridor," Agho said. The corridor houses biomedical companies, research organizations, higher education institutions and health-care providers such as LifeNet Health's world headquarters, Sentara Healthcare, Operation Smile and the Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters.

The expansion, Agho said, will also enhance the ability of faculty members to conduct pioneering health-care research. Research labs will also be available for upper-level students.

"We are excited to have a strong health sciences presence in both Norfolk and Virginia Beach that will provide great new opportunities for our students and the community," said Ellen Neufeldt, vice president for student engagement and enrollment services.

Starting in the fall of 2018, the Virginia Beach Higher Education Center will offer upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses in nursing and telehealth training, providing students dynamic new classroom and hands-on opportunities in these critical fields. That will place an additional 350 students and 45 faculty members at the center, bringing the total to more than 1,200.

"The faculty and staff of the School of Nursing are extremely excited about the expansion to the Virginia Beach Higher Education Center," Karlowicz said. "This will enable us to increase the size of our clinical simulation training facilities to accommodate growing enrollments in our undergraduate and graduate programs."

When a proposed School of Public Health is launched, the center's population will grow by an additional 500 students and 17 faculty members, Agho said.

This fall, Old Dominion will open a telehealth education and research center, which will capitalize on the potential of telehealth to revolutionize health-care delivery. Telehealth involves the use of technology to enhance care and improve patient outcomes by connecting health-care providers and patients at a distance.

"ODU will be one of a select few universities that is positioned to provide critical telehealth training to undergraduate and graduate students - our health-care providers of tomorrow," Agho said. "Teaching students as well as community health-care providers to use this innovative technology will have far-reaching effects on residents in Hampton Roads, as well as provide critical support for providers and patients in rural and underserved communities throughout Virginia and beyond."

The School of Nursing had already incorporated telehealth education into its graduate curriculums, Karlowicz said. "Pre-licensure students will now also have the unique opportunity to develop skills in telehealth - something not typically included in an undergraduate curriculum."

The University later plans to launch a primary care clinic - which will provide other services such as physical and speech therapy - and a substance abuse prevention center.

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