Roane State Community College and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) Knoxville recognized Covenant Health today for the largest donation in the history of both colleges.
Covenant Health has pledged to gift 10 acres of land to the State of Tennessee for the construction of the new Knox Regional Health Science and Simulation Center. The land, located in the 9000-block of Sherrill Boulevard, is directly across the street from Parkwest Medical Center.
In a special celebration held at Parkwest on January 27, representatives from Roane State, TCAT Knoxville and Roane State’s non-profit Foundation thanked Covenant leadership for their investment in the future of the healthcare workforce.
“This gift is both literally and figuratively the foundation of this state-of-the-art facility which is critically needed in East Tennessee,” said Dr. Chris Whaley, president of Roane State. “Because of this tremendous donation, we will be able to increase the number of students accepted into our nationally accredited programs, add new specialized courses, and provide a one-of-a-kind educational experience that prepares students for the real world.”
“We couldn’t be more pleased to donate the land for the new health science and simulation center, which will bring innovative resources to a greater number of students and prepare them for success in their healthcare careers,” said Jim VanderSteeg, Covenant Health president and CEO. “Educating the healthcare professionals of tomorrow is a vital part of caring for our communities, so this is truly a perfect partnership for Covenant Health.”
The vision for the health science and simulation center is focused on creating dynamic spaces where instructors can provide comprehensive simulations of the work students will be doing when they graduate. As proposed, the facility would have 130,000 square feet in total, with at least 11,000 square feet devoted to the simulation center. The center will replace Roane State’s current Knox County Center for Health Sciences – a 16,000-squarefoot campus located on Hayfield Road in West Knoxville – and will be the new home of TCAT Knoxville’s health science programs.
“A steady supply of highly skilled and well-trained healthcare professionals is crucial to both the care of patients and the success of the industry,” TCAT Knoxville President Kelli Chaney said. “This project will increase that supply and give students great new career opportunities.”
Current Roane State programs to be housed in the new center will include nursing, EMS, polysomnography, and respiratory therapy, with the college planning to add new programs such as cardiovascular technology, healthcare administration, public health and more. TCAT Knoxville’s health science programs will be offered under the same roof and include dental assisting, phlebotomy, and surgical technology, among others.
“Our Knox County campus has served us well, but we are landlocked in that space and our programs have no room for growth,” Whaley explained. “Expanding to meet local workforce needs in health science careers is a top priority.”
“This partnership creates a unique synergy between classroom studies and hands-on experience for students in our region,” said Mike Belbeck, executive vice president of operations for Covenant Health. “Students will have the convenience of attending classes at the new center and participating in clinical training opportunities right across the street at Parkwest Medical Center, as well as other Covenant Health facilities.”
Roane State and TCAT Knoxville hope to break ground on the new facility soon. Preliminary project timeline estimates have the Knox Regional Health Science and Simulation Center set to open for students in 2025.
On January 31, 2022, Governor Bill Lee presented his 2022-23 budget proposal, which included $67,500,000 in state funding for the Knox Regional Health Science and Simulation Center. The project had previously been approved by the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), the governing body for both Roane State and TCAT Knoxville. It was then recommended by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) for inclusion in the budget.
Roane State is expected to provide at least a $7,500,000 campus match and is kicking off a capital fundraising campaign to meet that goal. Additional details on those efforts are forthcoming from Roane State Foundation. The total estimated dollar amount for the project is $75,000,000, which includes previous
funding of $1,000,000 appropriated in fiscal year 2021-22 for the preliminary design phase. The official transfer of ownership of the donated land will occur at a later date. Currently, the project is awaiting approval of the early design phase by the State Board of Education.