hospital Health care in Cumberland County and surrounding communities takes a quantum leap Jan. 13 when Cape Fear Valley Health unveils the $33 million Medical Education Center & Neuroscience Institute.

You can see for yourself.

A ribbon-cutting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at the five-story center on Owen Drive and adjacent to Melrose Drive at Cape Fear Medical Center. Facility tours are scheduled from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., including Simulation Center demonstrations.

“In this facility, Cape Fear Valley Health is going to cultivate a new generation of physicians to transform the landscape of health care in southeastern North Carolina,” Mike Nagowski, chief executive officer of Cape Fear Valley Health, says in a news release. “Our country is facing a serious physician shortage, with a quarter of our region’s rural communities lacking doctors in many critical specialties. The Center for Medical Education & Neuroscience Institute will build our capacity to serve more patients, address physician shortages and ensure that we can continue to provide exceptional care to all our patients.”

Groundbreaking for the building was Jan. 14, 2021.

“The physician residents will transform health care in this entire region,” Nagowski was saying Monday. “Fifty percent of our residents have decided to stay. This will allow us to attract and train the very best. This takes us to a different level, and this Medical Education Center will be among the best in North Carolina.”

The total cost of the center includes design, construction, medical equipment and furniture, according to Sabrina Brooks, vice president of the Cape Fear Valley Health Foundation.

According to the health system, funding included contributions from the state, including $15 million secured in 2022 by the Cumberland County legislative delegation of Marvin Lucas and Diane Wheatley and former legislators Billy Richardson, John Szoka, Kirk deViere and Ben Clark; Campbell University; the Duke Endowment; the Thomas R. and Elizabeth E. McLean Foundation; the Cape Fear Valley Health Volunteer Auxiliary; Cape Fear Valley Health Executive and Vice President Leaders; the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust; Systel Business Equipment; Tony and Ann Cimaglia; Jay and Charlene Wyatt; the Armstrong, Riddle and Williams families; Dr. Wes and Lucy Turk Hollis Jones; and Dr. David and Jenna Abbes Schutzer.

Funding also came from the Golden LEAF Foundation as part of the Cape Fear Valley Health Foundation's "Caring for the Future" fundraising campaign — led by co-chairs Virginia Thompson Oliver and Tony Cimaglia — that raised $7.85 million.

“Having been involved with the CFV Health Foundation for many years, I am inspired and very excited with the forward movement of the Medical Education Center & Neuroscience Institute,” Tony Cimaglia says. “Our new state-of-the-art facility will greatly aid the positive growth of medical care advancements and assistance to the ever-growing growth of the Fayetteville area health care needs; recruitment of much-needed area neurologists to assist with the ever-increasing situations of area residents requiring their services and treatment; and with the adequate space and provisions provided for the training of 300-plus doctors in their areas of specialty residency.

“All of this will dramatically impact the future of medicine in Cumberland County and surrounding areas and give hope and closeness of available treatment options. I am pleased to be a small part of this much-needed venture at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, and I have prayers and high hopes for the continuing success of medical advancement in our area meeting the needs of so many of us.”

Ryan Aul is president of the foundation’s board of directors.

“At the foundation, when the hospital has a project to promote a stronger, healthier community, we are there to fundraise for it,” he says. “This particular project will allow Cape Fear Valley Health to continue, and indeed expand, its ability to provide training for much needed physicians for rural communities in North Carolina. Many of these residents will stay in our communities and provide high-quality medical care to those we love.

“The added neuroscience facilities are an incredible recruiting tool. We have amazing physicians at Cape Fear Valley Health, and this new facility will allow us to better care for those with neurological ailments.

“The impact of this new building is profound in so many ways — economically and in improving health care in our community,” Aul says. “I am so proud of how our community philanthropists stepped up and supported the project. Cape Fear Valley Health is an important asset to our communities, and all our donors truly stepped up to enhance the value of that asset. We are so grateful.”

Floor by floor

The center is 120,000 square feet, the health system says, and will provide surgery; emergency and trauma treatment; labor and delivery; and intensive care training.

The first floor will feature the Ellison Auditorium, a flexible space that seats 500 in one large space or can be divided into three smaller spaces, according to Brooks, of the health foundation. It also features state-of-the-art audiovisual capabilities to accommodate a learning environment. The floor includes a food court that will open later in the year. The first floor connects to the medical center and includes outdoor seating and bricks inscribed with messages from donors to the project. The auditorium is named in memory of Elizabeth Ellison McLean and made possible by the generosity of the Thomas R. and Elizabeth E. McLean Foundation.

The second floor will house offices of the Medical Residency Program and administration, a conference room, multiple classrooms, and teleconference rooms.

The third floor includes the state-of-the-art Simulation Center for medical residents and clinical teams to train in all areas of health care. It includes a resident lounge, study and exercise room.

The fourth floor is space for future growth.
The Neuroscience Institute is located on the fifth floor for expansion of treatment of neurological conditions.

“We are very fortunate to recruit high-quality surgeons and neurologists,” Nagowski says. “This facility will match their clinical capabilities.”

Dr. Charles Haworth is director of neurology for the health system. He welcomes the top-floor institute.

“It’s going to be sort of a visible headquarters,” Haworth says. “Kind of a landmark. It gives a sense of purpose. Before, we were tucked away in a little house on the corner. The whole idea of everything going in that building is a new chapter in the ongoing saga of the hospital. I’m hoping this will be a drawing card to draw other young neurosurgeons here to keep up the good and quality work we have established. It’s just taking things to another level. It’s an evolution.”

The name of the institute will be announced Thursday evening, according to Nagowski.

‘A teaching hospital’

Cape Fear Valley, in partnership with Campbell University’s Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine, launched its first postgraduate residency program in 2017 with a mission to recruit and retain doctors who would continue to practice in this region, according to the health system. The program has grown to include seven more residency programs and two fellowships at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center.

There are now 274 residents in the health system and 130 medical students. The new facility will house these residency programs and more as the programs continue to grow.

Dr. Don Maharty is vice president for medical education at Cape Fear Valley Health.

“Studies show that 50% of physicians typically go into practice within 50 miles of the location where they complete their residency, and we saw that play out with our first graduating class of residents at Cape Fear Valley last year,” Maharty says. “Studies also show that health outcomes are higher in the areas surrounding a teaching hospital. Since we launched our first residency program in 2017, we have grown to over 300 approved positions in 15 residency and fellowship programs, with plans to keep growing.”

The Medical Education Center, he says, will make a significant and profound future for health care.

“This new building will impact our community for years to come through the projected increase in physicians and specialists who choose to continue their professional careers in our region and in our health system,” Maharty says. “Additionally, the residency program is expected to add more than 900 new jobs and generate nearly $580 million in economic impact in the region over the next 10 years.”

Epilogue

So, there you have it: a quantum leap for health care in this and surrounding communities to include Bladen, Columbus, Harnett, Hoke, Moore, Robeson and Sampson counties.

“We are grateful to all of the people,” Mike Nagowski says, “who have donated so generously to this facility.”
Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961.

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