UNE breaks ground on new interprofessional health education facility
PORTLAND – The University of New England held a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday for the construction of the Harold and Bibby Alfond Center for Health Sciences on its Portland Campus.
The project will facilitate the relocation of the University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine from Biddeford, creating an integrated health sciences campus that is unique in all of New England.
UNE is Maine’s largest educator of health professionals and the top provider of physicians to the state. It is home to Maine’s only medical school and Northern New England’s only dental college, as well as programs in pharmacy, physician assistant, nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, social work, dental hygiene, and nurse anesthesia. Uniting these programs on a single footprint will create additional opportunities for students to learn to work in teams, a practice known as interprofessional education, which has been shown to lead to improved outcomes for patients.
“Construction of this new building will allow us to admit more medical students each year, with state-of-the-art learning spaces where those students will get hands-on clinical experience and have the opportunity to learn alongside their peers in other health programs,” said UNE President James Herbert. “When it is completed, it will be transformative for UNE and transformative for the study and practice of medicine in Maine.”
The project’s projected cost is $93 million and it is expected to be complete by the summer of 2024. It is made possible by a generous gift of $30 million from the Harold Alfond Foundation, the largest gift in UNE’s history. Another $5 million was secured by Maine’s senior senator Susan Collins in federal appropriations.
Since 1995, UNE has awarded more than 15,500 degrees in the health sciences. Many of the University’s graduates stay and work in Maine, where they tackle the health care needs of the state’s rural and aging populations.
“There is a real shortage of physicians in Maine right now, especially in family practice, and especially in the outermost reaches of our largely rural state,” said Jane Carreiro, D.O., dean of UNE COM. “Our rapidly aging population makes access to a physician all the more critical for Maine’s people. In response, we have steadily grown our COM class sizes in recent years and we will expand further when our new facility is completed and we move to Portland.”
Design features of the new facility will incorporate best practices in medical education and team-based learning, including flexible classrooms, superb technical capabilities, and spaces designed to encourage collaboration and interaction.
UNE’s Biddeford Campus will benefit from the relocation of the medical school as well, as the move will allow the University to expand its programming in several market-aligned fields of study, enabling the growth of current academic programs and the development of new programs through use of labs and classrooms vacated by the medical program. It will also allow for growth of UNE’s world-class research programs in biomedical sciences, marine programs, and other areas.