Governor Pat McCrory spent 30 minutes walking the hallways of the UNC School of Medicine’s Berryhill Hall on Wednesday, visiting the outdated labs and old lecture spaces, including an auditorium that can no longer be used and doubles a storage space.
But it took him all of five minutes, he said, to realize the facility no longer meets the needs of its students — the state’s future doctors.
“It’s not 21st century building for 21st century doctors,” McCrory said.
Bringing the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s medical school up to modern times was among the many goals discussed Feb. 17 at a Connect N.C. Bond proposal panel discussion hosted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
McCrory and Chancellor Carol L. Folt were joined by NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Secretary Susan Kluttz; NC National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Gregory A. Lusk; and Alamance Community College President Algie C. Gatewood at the panel to support the $2 billion bond referendum, which will be voted on March 15.
In addition to providing millions of dollars for water and sewer systems, National Guard Centers, and updates to 45 state parks, the bond would provide nearly $1 billion for the University of North Carolina System to build and repair facilities, and more than $300 million to modernize facilities in the 58-member community college system, as well.
“It’s a partnership between the governor and the legislature, between every single one of our universities, colleges and community colleges, and it’s a partnership with the citizens of the state of North Carolina because it’s a partnership to really build and improve the infrastructure as an investment for the future,” Folt said of the bond, which will require no new taxes to finance.
The last time voters approved a bond like this was 15 years ago. Since then, North Carolina’s population has grown by 2 million people.
A main goal of the Connect NC Bond proposal, McCrory said, is to support areas where there are skill gaps in the professions the state needs to fill the most. It is an effort to provide a stronger economy. With more than 30 percent of doctors in North Carolina retiring in the near future, the ability to recruit and train new physicians is crucial.
But the UNC School of Medicine’s main educational facility, Berryhill Hall, was designed in the 1960s with spaces designed for lectures — not modern interactive teaching practices.
At Carolina, the bond will provide $68 million for the construction of a new medical education building that will meet current trends in education and the needs of the medical students.
“This is really critical,” Folt said. “This medical school is top ranked in so many ways, it produces amazing doctors, and they’re in every county. But people are trained in a building that was built 50 years ago, when medicine was not what medicine is today.”
To address the impending doctor shortage in the state, the UNC School of Medicine has been approved to increase its cohorts from 180 students to 230 students. The facility, however, is at capacity. The school’s administrators and faculty have done everything they can to fit 180 students per class year.
The new facility would allow for the increase in students, which will in turn prepare more doctors that will be ready to serve the state.
“When you attract people, and they’re trained in our universities and community colleges, those are the people who tend to stay here,” Folt said. “It really behooves us to have the smartest and brightest come here because the chance of keeping them here for the long run is really going to increase.
“We’re really trying to build up the future of the state, and we’re very excited about it.”
By Brandon Bieltz, a multimedia content producer in UNC’s Office of Communications and Public Affairs