Dear Friend of Indiana University,

Indiana University is the state’s largest and most important center for health sciences education and research with large and highly ranked programs in medicine, nursing, dentistry, public health, optometry, speech and hearing, social work and health and rehabilitation sciences located throughout the state.

Indiana University Health, founded in 1997 by IU and the Methodist Health Group, is the largest hospital and health care system in Indiana, serving tens of thousands of patients a year, and home to numerous nationally prominent specialty practices. IU’s unique partnership with IU Health is vital to educating the next generation of health professionals, and to the health and wellbeing of the citizens of Indiana.

So the announcements over the last few weeks of not one, but two major partnerships that will result in new IU Health hospitals and associated IU medical education buildings as part of academic health centers in Indianapolis and Bloomington is dramatic news indeed. New hospitals tend to be once in a century decisions, so these two partnerships, which represent a combined investment well in excess of $1 billion, will have an immensely widespread impact on Indiana for many decades to come.

A new IU Health Bloomington Hospital

In mid-April, IU joined IU Health in announcing that the new IU Health Bloomington Hospital would be built on the IU Bloomington campus as part of a regional academic health center (view the video online). It will be built adjacent to the IU Technology Park on the north edge of the campus on ground currently used as the IU golf course driving range, which will be relocated to another location on the golf course site.

As part of this regional academic health center, the university will build a new medical education building closely adjacent to, and integrated with, the hospital. The building will provide much needed instructional space for IU Bloomington’s health-related programs, including the School of Medicine’s medical education program, nursing, speech and hearing therapies, social work and eventually dentistry and other disciplines. Many of these programs lack dedicated and specialized classroom space, and they suffer from a dearth of laboratory or clinic facilities. This is severely limiting enrollment and our ability to provide more graduates in these much in-demand professions.

As an example, IU Bloomington turns away more than 200 qualified nursing school applicants each year due to a lack of teaching and lab space. Once completed, the new medical education building will allow us to immediately increase the nursing school enrollment by one-third with the goal to eventually as much as double the annual class size to 120 students. In a similar vein, this expansion could allow our entering medical school class in Bloomington to grow to 50 students a year, up from about 35 today.

These increases are particularly important at a time when our state and our nation face a growing lack of medical and other health science professionals, and they will be a major way in which this new regional academic health center will allow IU to fulfill its service mission. Additionally, the co-location of the medical education building and the hospital will open up even greater opportunities for inter-professional education, allow our students to work and learn alongside medical professionals at the hospital and significantly expand collaboration between the hospital and the university.

We also are proud to have played a role in keeping a huge community asset within the city limits of Bloomington. Following the hospital’s decision this past winter to not attempt to renovate its 110-year-old downtown facility or build a new hospital on the site, it appeared likely that the new facility would be built outside of the city limits. Hence, the location of the new hospital on the campus, along two major thoroughfares and accessible by public transportation, has been warmly received by the community.

In addition to the initial space for a hospital and medical education building, the site offers room for considerable growth in the future for the attendant medical and related facilities that often locate near a major hospital, creating a vibrant regional academic health center that will serve Bloomington and surrounding communities for decades to come.

A new Indianapolis Academic Health Center

A week after the Bloomington announcement, IU Health unveiled its plans for an even larger initiative to dramatically transform its medical campus in downtown Indianapolis into a major new academic health center. IU Health intends to invest approximately $1 billion to consolidate its two existing downtown Indianapolis hospitals—University Hospital and Methodist Hospital—into one new state-of-the-art facility on or near the site of Methodist Hospital on 16th Street.

Like in Bloomington, but on a larger scale, a medical education building, funded by IU Health, will also be constructed and co-located with the hospital as part of this initiative. This facility will house faculty and students from the IU School of Medicine, and will represent a tremendous improvement on most of the medical education and research spaces currently used by the School of Medicine. IU will also construct a large research facility as part of the overall academic health center.

When complete, the academic health center comprising the new hospital and the new medical education facilities—and which also will include the recently constructed IU Neuroscience Research Building and the adjacent IU Health neuroscience clinical facility—will provide a major leap forward in medical care and research in Indiana’s largest city and in the whole state.

The School of Medicine faculty has warmly received this decision, and Dr. Jay Hess, vice president for university clinical affairs and dean of the IU School of Medicine, spoke of its importance at the time of the announcement when he said:

“This is a tangible example of the strength of our partnership. This model of care maximizes our ability to benefit the patients of today and—through research and education—the patients of tomorrow.”

It is important to note that while a good deal of medical education and research activity is expected to move to the new IU Health academic health center, the core IUPUI campus will continue to remain home to a large array of other health sciences programs and hospital facilities. As I have written in the past year, the university is in the process of planning for the future use of the former Wishard Hospital site and that work continues.

Both of these exciting developments are in their early stages, and a great deal of work remains to be done before the first ground is broken, much yet hospitals and medical education buildings are constructed. It is expected that the IU Health Bloomington Hospital will take at least five years to build, while the Indianapolis project likely will take seven to 10 years.

Still, the vision we have with our tremendous partners at IU Health of creating comprehensive academic health centers on or near our two largest campuses is immensely exciting for its potential to move IU forward as a leader in medical and health sciences education and research, and even more importantly, for what it means to improving long-term health outcomes across the state of Indiana.

Thank you very much again for your continued support of Indiana University.

With best wishes,

Michael A. McRobbie