STORRS, Conn. (AP) — The University of Connecticut is building a new medical center near its main campus as part of the $200 million public-private development project known as Storrs Center.
The development has already opened its first phase of stores, restaurants and apartments along Route 195 and is moving forward with additional construction.
The 18,000-square-foot, $4.36 million medical center is scheduled to open in December. It will be run and staffed by UConn doctors from the school’s health center and hospital, which is 35 miles away in Farmington.
“There have been, of course, excellent doctors scattered throughout eastern Connecticut, but there are not enough,” said UConn President Susan Herbst. “There are certain specialties that you have to drive an awfully long way for, and we hope to provide those in the Storrs Center.”
Plans call for the facility to include an urgent care center, orthopedics, cardiology, dermatology, occupational medicine, family medicine, psychiatry, obstetrics and gynecological services. It also will have a medical lab and a radiology suite.
The school’s board of trustees this week approved spending $858,000 for a full-service dental clinic that will open in the center in February with five exam rooms.
“There has never been the availability of dental services at the school’s infirmary,” said Dr. Steven M. Lepowsky, chairman of UConn’s Division of General Dentistry. “Over the years we’ve had a lot of students as well as staff and faculty travel from Storrs to Farmington for care, which isn’t always the most convenient thing.”
All the medical services will be available to members of the UConn community and the general public.
There will also be an educational component to the center, with students, residents and fellows in the UConn medical school spending time there just like they do at other academic affiliated hospitals and clinics, said Carolyn Pennington, a spokeswoman for the UConn Health Center.
But Lepowsky said students won’t be doing work on patients’ teeth at the dental office.
“It’s predominantly going to be staffed by faculty,” he said. “Could it be an opportunity for students to rotate and observe and assist? Yes. But it is not designed to be an extension of the dental clinics here. This is a practice that will be staffed by faculty.”
Howard Kaufman, managing member of LeylandAlliance, the project’s master developer, said Storrs Center also has a separate physical therapy office and may include other medical offices affiliated with Windham Hospital.
UConn’s medical center will produce an estimated 100,000 patient visits per year and give people another reason to come downtown, Kaufman said.
“If you have to go to the doctor, then you can come out and get some ice cream,” he said.
UConn is in the process of hiring hundreds of new faculty members and is trying to attract more top teachers, researchers and students to its rural campus in northeastern Connecticut, about 25 miles east of Hartford. To do that, she said, the school needs to help make Storrs a more attractive destination.
The project has already transformed the main drag of Storrs, which used to house a couple of ’70s-era strip malls, into a more modern-looking college town, with storefronts, boutiques, cafes and restaurants.
“Just like you can get a nice tattoo here, now you can also get your tennis elbow looked at,” Herbst said. “Services to students, faculty and staff are important, just like restaurants. They’re different, but they are both vital.”
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