University of Nebraska at Kearney plans to build medical center on campus

UNMC Rural Health Complex on UNK campus

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – A rural medical school in Western Nebraska is something Senator Robert Hilkemann has been pushing for, and now with the federal American Rescue Plan Act funds, his hopes may soon become a reality.

“We have significant gaps in health care coverage in terms of mental health professionals, occupational therapists, physical therapists, particularly in the rural counties of Nebraska. This will be an attempt to help close that gap by creating actual brick and mortar schoolhouse on the Kearney campus and bring these students there where they will internship and eventually stay in the rural parts of Nebraska,” said Ted Carter President of the University of Nebraska system.

A few years ago, the University of Nebraska Kearney expanded its nursing school and other health degrees.  Now they are taking another step by establishing the UNMC Rural Health Complex located on the UNK campus.  It will add new programs and expand their existing ones.

“Not only are we adding a medical school, but we are going to add more for the pharmacy techs, the pharmacists, the med techs, the x-ray techs, the whole thing, the whole school. This is going to make that a center for medical activity in central-western Nebraska,” said Senator Robert Hilkemann.

Currently, about 85% of the students who go through the UNK health science education center stay in rural Nebraska.

“It’s important that we invest in our future and this is going to be an investment in rural health, and in medicine in general,” said Senator Hilkemann.

The $60 million requested from the ARPA funds will build new classrooms for the medical program.

“A lot of the clinics and a lot of the infrastructure for rural hospitals and clinics are there, it’s just getting the medical professionals to fill them out,” said Carter.

The hope is that the medical school will also draw students into the UNK undergraduate programs so that they can receive all necessary degrees a the same university.

“I think we need to have a medical school that focuses on rural health care,” said Senator Hilkemann.

Senator John Lowe represents Kearney, and he spoke on how important it is to grow the student population at UNK.

“The program will roughly bring in 214 students at any given time. UNK students are the key components to the economy of Kearney,” said Senator John Lowe.

This will help with the shortage of healthcare workers, especially in rural communities, as well as retain and gain young people into our state.

“There is no better piece of legislation in this year’s session that would grow central and western Nebraska than LB 721,” said Senator Lowe.

Currently, the nursing program at UNK is full and this expansion would allow them to add 40 more students to the program.  The requested funds must first be approved by the appropriations committee and put into the budget before it can hit the legislative floor for debate.

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