Sunday, February 04, 2007

UC Davis News & Information :: New student health center takes shape

Dateline UC Davis
News for Faculty and Staff of the University of California, Davis

January 19, 2007
New student health center takes shape

By Dave Jones

This artist’s rendering shows the planned Health and Wellness Center on La Rue Road. It will be twice as large as the existing health center.

The Cowell Student Health Center, which has been taking care of Aggies for more than 50 years, is on its way out.

Earlier this week, a committee of the UC Board of Regents approved a $50 million replacement, to be called the Health and Wellness Center, to be built on the west side of La Rue Road, adjacent to The Colleges at LaRue and across from the Activities and Recreation Center.

At press time, the proposal still needed to go to the full board; that was expected to happen Thursday.

Assuming the project is approved, officials said, construction of the three-story building is scheduled to start a year from now and be completed by September 2009, with funding from Campus Expansion Initiative student fees approved by student vote in 2002.

The existing health center opened in 1952 as a hospital and infirmary.

"Many of our alumni will recall having been hospitalized or having received surgical treatment here in the late 1950s through the early '80s," said Michelle Famula, a physician and director of the Student Health Center.

"Several on our staff have worked in this building for more than 20 years and will certainly miss its familiarity."

But, having said that, Famula continued, "The facility is terribly outdated, with spaces that were never built for the current workload or style of outpatient health care now being delivered to our students on campus."

The Student Health Center opened at a time when UC Davis enrollment was 1,525. Money from the San Francisco-based S.H. Cowell Foundation paid for an expansion project in 1967, to accommodate an enrollment of 13,000.

In 1987, after closing the hospital and emergency room, the university renovated those spaces. The reconfigured health center was then big enough to serve the outpatient care needs of an enrollment of 19,000.

For the fall quarter just ended, UC Davis enrollment was 30,475 — but the health center is the same size that it was in 1987.

In 2005-06, Famula said, 14,243 students sought care at the health center, making 52,237 visits there.

The new Health and Wellness Center will have about 48,000 square feet of useable space, about twice the size of the existing center.

"Our new building will have better space utilization, better accommodation of patient care workflow and workload, better design to utilize current medical and information technology, as well as facilitate electronic medical record systems, and be a more structurally welcoming and comfortable facility for patients as well as employees," Famula said by e-mail to Dateline.

The project site covers about two acres just south of Parking Lot 35. To make way for the Health and Wellness Center, the university plans to relocate a set of basketball courts and the arboretum nursery.

The new sites have not been determined, but here are the options:

* For the basketball courts — a site within the Segundo student housing complex, or land that is now turf at the south edge of the Dairy Field recreation area.
* For the nursery — a site on the south side of Garrod Avenue near the arboretum's Shields Grove, or a site on the south side of Old Davis Road and west of the University Club.

The existing Student Health Center would be converted for academic or administrative use, but that use has not been determined.

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