ROSEBURG — A perceived need for healthcare professionals in southern Oregon is sparking efforts to see a campus for George Fox University established here.
As reported by the Newberg Graphic, the Newberg-based Christian university is exploring building an allied and mental health college in Roseburg.
A coalition called Oregonians for Rural Health — comprising officials from local cities and counties, hospitals, community colleges and business groups — is working with the university on the proposal.
The coalition will look for a site to build the campus, create the ownership structure and provide the funding. The university would be expected to bring the management group, the accreditation, and the models on how to run the university facility as well as provide staff and instructors.
Linda Samek, George Fox provost, said the school is excited about the potential for helping southern and rural Oregon address workforce shortages in healthcare and related fields. The scope of programs that could be offered in Roseburg is not yet set, but plans call for the university to offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.
From its Newberg main campus, George Fox has gradually added health-oriented study programs in recent years. It offers a four-year degree in nursing and a doctoral program in physical therapy, and plans to launch in 2021 a physical assistant medical program.
One of the coalition member agencies is the Umpqua Economic Development Partnership. Wayne Patterson, executive director, said healthcare is vital to local communities and the region, but that providers — including CHI Mercy Health’s Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg and the Veterans Administration hospital, also in Roseburg — have struggled to keep up with the demand for service because of growing allied health job vacancy rates.
Kelly Morgan, CEO of Mercy Medical Center, said there is a great need for healthcare education in southern Oregon.
The Veterans Administration center is the primary partner with George Fox on the project. Last fall the VA provided testimony to state leaders about the current difficulty filling many of its allied health positions. They said veterans’ access to primary, specialty and mental health care can be increased if a local workforce of healthcare professionals could be established and maintained.
According to Patterson, the coalition has already explored several sites and has asked a local engineering group and property owner to start a site plan for two locations. A third location is also under consideration. All the sites would be within Roseburg city limits.
According to George Fox, the joint effort is an exclusive partnership that would also allow exploring fund development and in-kind contributions to build and equip the university facility.