UK, WKU break ground on new Medical Center

Left to right: Claci Ayres Walls, Taylor Johnson and Mary Kate Greenwood participate in the ground breaking at the new Medical Center. Walls, Johnson and Greenwood are in their third year of medical school at UK. Johnson and Greenwood are WKU Honors College alumni and Walls is a Bowling Green native and Gatton Academy alumnus. Walls said she is excited to work with medical students from WKU in the future. Rebekah Alvey/Herald

Rebekah Alvey

This morning, representatives and supporters of University of Kentucky and WKU were in attendance for the groundbreaking ceremony at the UK College of Medicine Bowling Green campus. 

Construction on the new building is set to last 11 months and will be located in the Medical Center. The new campus is a collaboration between WKU, University of Kentucky, who has a developed medical school, Morehead State University and regional health care providers in Bowling Green, Ashland and Morehead.

“What started out as a dream of few has become a dream of many,” Dr. Don Brown, director of medical education at the Medical Center, said.

Brown said one of the benefits of the new campus is the ability to recruit WKU and Gatton Academy students and immediately place them in a position to work in a professional environment while getting assistance on interviews and test preparations. Brown said these students would also have guaranteed acceptance into medical school so long as they maintain grades and test scores.

Claci Ayres Walls, a Bowling Green native, graduate of Gatton Academy and third year UK Medical school student, said all three places have greatly influenced her and is excited that they will combine to influence others. 

President Gary Ransdell said there is a direct path to medical school for students in Bowling Green and students that study in an area are more likely to stay and practice in that area.

Brown said they have already interviewed and accepted eight students for the entering class of 2019.

Ransdell said improved health care has long been a goal for WKU. What partially motivated the creation of the Bowling Green campus was a shortage of physicians in the community.

In his remarks, Ransdell recognized president-elect, Tim Caboni, as the person that will see the project through. Caboni said the focus on improving health in the region is an important mission because it can elevate communities.

UK President Eli Capilouto said the Commonwealth leads the nation in rates of cancer, chronic respiratory disease, sixth in heart disease, seventh in diabetes and 8th in stroke.

“As Kentuckians, we know we can’t afford to lead the country in these types of deaths,” Capilouto said. “Too many lives are cut short, too many dreams extinguished.”

Capilouto said the UK medical school is at capacity and they are unable to accept all of the numerous applicants without collaboration with other universities. Capilouto said this partnership allows UK to effectively utilize existing resources within the state to meet a critical need.

Capilouto said the expansion would add 30 percent more students to the medical school classes who are likely to turn around and contribute their services to the commonwealth.

“We understand the value of what we do through partnerships like this that improve the life of Kentuckians primarily in this region,” Ransdell said.

Caboni said the trust and collaboration between UK, WKU and the Medical Center was remarkable.

Ransdell said there were many people involved in the project that had roots in Bowling Green and WKU. Dr. Todd Cheever, associate dean at the UK college of medicine, said he received his undergraduate degree from WKU. He said he believes the partnership is a homecoming for him after 30 years.

Cheever said as an associate dean for the college of medicine,he can help many students find their residency and specialty. He is looking forward to helping students from this part of the state. Cheever said he also plans to return to WKU to talk about medical school to different students.

Reporter Rebekah Alvey can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].