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WTH approves $2.5 million for Union University program

JACKSON, Tenn.June 30, 2004 – The West Tennessee Healthcare board approved a motion Tuesday to give Union University an additional $2.5 million to help fund a certified registered nurse anesthetist program, contingent on Union board of trustees’ final approval of the program. West Tennessee Healthcare earlier pledged $500,000 for a new biology/chemistry lab, bringing their total donation to Union to $3 million, one of the largest gifts in the university’s history.

Ron Hill, vice president for hospital services at West Tennessee Healthcare, said the new program will be a cooperative effort.

"This is a bold step we're taking jointly with Union University to help meet the increasing healthcare needs of the West Tennessee area,” he said. “Our partnership with Union, which goes back to 1962 when it began its nursing program, is something we highly value, as it has been instrumental in helping us provide high quality care by fully trained professionals."

The donation will be given over a three-year time period before the summer of 2007 and will be used for space and equipment needs. Administrators at the university expressed their appreciation for the gift and said they plan to begin the CRNA program next year with final approval from their board.

“Union University is incredibly grateful to West Tennessee Healthcare for their support of the proposed CRNA program for nursing anesthetists,” Union President David S. Dockery said. “It is our hope that the program can move forward in the fall of 2005 with the full approval of the Union Board of Trustees at their next meeting. This is an exciting step forward for the work of Union University and will be, we believe, a most helpful contribution to the health care community in this city and throughout this region.”

Dockery said the need for nurse anesthetists is critical in West Tennessee and across the U.S.

“The opportunities for nursing anesthetists are significant indeed,” he said. “The need for these professionals in this region and throughout the country is growing at a rapid pace.”

Dr. Lisa Williams Rogers, a physician at Jackson Clinic and secretary of Union’s board, agreed.

“This is something that the medical community is desperately needing at this time, with the shortage of CRNAs in this area as well as nationwide,” she said. “Although this is not a ‘quick fix’ for the problem, it will provide for a steady supply of quality CRNA graduates for years to come. Almost daily, I hear from one of my colleagues about how they hope that Union will be able to develop a CRNA program. This will be a great help to continuing to provide quality medical care in this area.”

The CRNA program will be a 70 semester hour graduate program for those already in the nursing profession holding a bachelor of science in nursing degree. Dockery said Provost Carla Sanderson will be working with the Union faculty and representatives from the local health care community to move the program forward.

by Kathie Chute

Media contact: Tabitha Frizzell, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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