ROCKFORD (WREX) — It was announced Thursday afternoon that the University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford is getting a $100 million dollar expansion that would help the school focus on rural healthcare.
The announcement was made during the Rockford Chamber of Commerce's Heartbeat of Healthcare Luncheon at Prairie Street Brewing Co.
The proposed building expansion would allow UIC programs that focus on educating rural health professionals to include such fields as dentistry, public health, social work and applied health to allow more students into their program.
Alex Stagnaro-Green, a dean at the school in the college of medicine, says that after dealing with COVID-19, there is never enough healthcare professionals to help the less populated areas in the state.
"There is a real disparity between the healthcare that's given in rural and urban areas, and I think we have a responsibility as a state to try to address it," he said.
The new building will allow for 400 more students to join the program, more than doubling the amount of current students enrolled.
As part of the training for the students, the first two years are spent learning about rural health, ethics, and fiscal demands as well as going on field trips.
As training progresses, students will get hands-on training with tractor rollover scenes, visit different hospitals around the state, and go to the southernmost part of Illinois to talk to CEO's of critical access hospitals.
Stagnaro-Green says that the students that enroll in the program are well aware of the differences in rural and metro healthcare.
"They've developed a certain appreciation and understanding of what it takes to be a rural physician," he said.
Next steps for the project include securing funding from state, federal and philanthropic sources.
Stagnaro-Green says he hopes the project will break ground in 2023.