The groundbreaking for Creighton University’s new CL Werner Center for Health Sciences Education on Wednesday may have been ceremonial, but university officials say the $75 million structure will have real impacts on the campus.
The five-story, 130,000-square-foot facility will serve as the new home of Creighton’s School of Medicine and as a hub for all of the university’s health sciences schools and colleges. The university seeks to bring together health care students from different disciplines to prepare them to work collaboratively in the field.
Situated near the Interstate 480 and U.S. Highway 75 interchange at Cuming Street, the new building also will provide a new “front door” for the west side of Creighton’s campus, said the Rev. Daniel Hendrickson, Creighton’s president.
“It will serve as a symbol of the connections we are making at Creighton — between our spaces, between our disciplines and with the people we care for,” he said in a statement.
The facility is named for CL and Rachel Werner. Hendrickson announced in February that the couple, longtime Creighton supporters, would provide major funding for the health sciences education facility. CL Werner is the founder of Werner Enterprises, an Omaha-based trucking company.
“We’re very proud to be involved in it,” CL Werner said.
Also attending the ceremony were Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert and Omaha City Councilman Pete Festersen.
The new facility will be situated on land currently occupied by Creighton’s Military Science Building and the Center for Health Policy and Ethics, which will be moved to new locations on campus.
A skywalk will connect the new center with the Criss Complex to the south near North 27th Plaza and Burt Street. The complex currently houses many of Creighton’s health sciences and medical programs. The complex will get its own $10 million renovation, bringing the total cost of the project to $85 million.
The construction of the new center, expected to open in fall 2023, also will result in shifting Creighton’s entire campus east of Highway 75. The university plans to sell property west of the highway now occupied by the Cardiac Center, the Boyne Building and the Bio-Information Center. The move will reduce the university’s footprint by 220,000 square feet, which is expected to save more than $700,000 a year.
The project also is expected to create 1,070 jobs during construction, according to an estimate provided by the university. It will have an overall impact of $3.2 billion on the local economy during the first 10 years.
Ricketts highlighted the role Creighton plays in drawing talented young people to the state and in training health care providers who go on to care for the state’s residents. Recently, students and faculty volunteered to deliver 42,000 COVID-19 shots at a vaccination clinic at the university’s Rasmussen Center.
Stothert noted that 90% of Creighton’s medical students come from outside Nebraska and that many stay to begin their careers in the state.
The university in recent years has focused on preparing students from different disciplines to work together in caring for patients, an approach that officials say has been shown to improve quality of care and patient outcomes while decreasing costs.
The CL Werner Center, officials said, will further that focus. The facility will house programs not only in medicine but also in nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, behavioral health and other disciplines. It will feature a simulation center, classrooms, study areas, labs and administrative areas. About 5,900 students, faculty and staff will use the center each year.
Hendrickson has said Creighton is on its way to being the nation’s largest Catholic health professions educator, with medical school expansion also taking place in Arizona. The university will open a nearly $100 million health sciences campus in Phoenix this fall.
The university announced in January that it will create a $25 million health sciences program through which medical students and other health care students will gain experience in other countries. The university opened a new dental building along Cuming Street three years ago.