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D'Youville pins hopes on $20 million health clinic, training center on West Side

D'Youville College plans to build a $20 million facility on Buffalo's West Side to train health care professionals and provide clinical care in the community.

The new health professions hub would be the first clinic in the country to include all of the health professions under one roof working in cooperation on behalf of patients, D'Youvillle President Lorrie Clemo said.

College officials envision a three-story building of 46,000 square feet at Connecticut Street and West Avenue. The site now is a college parking lot.

The plan calls for a community clinic on the first floor, classrooms and conference space on the second floor, a third-floor "virtual training center" and a two-story, 200-seat amphitheater.

The college will seek $10 million in state aid to get the project off the ground. College representatives already have met with several elected state officials, including Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo, who expressed support for the project in an interview with The News.

"It's attractive to me because the West Side is a neighborhood of high medical need," Ryan said.

The West Side also has a large number of people who work in the health care industry and could benefit by gaining additional workforce training to help them advance into higher-paying jobs, he said.

The college also has a plan to hire more faculty and staff and to provide training for hospitals and health care firms from outside Western New York, bringing more dollars into the local economy.

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"It's in the sweet spot of our economic development plan," Ryan said.

In addition to the state money, college officials will try to raise $10 million in private funds by 2020 from individuals and foundations.

D'Youville has programs in occupational therapy, physician assistant, dietetics, nursing, family nurse practitioner, chiropractic, physical therapy and pharmacy.

One of the focuses of the hub clinic would be on managing chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes and coronary heart disease, which occur at higher rates among West Side residents than among residents city and statewide.

The clinic would employ an interdisciplinary, team approach to health care. For example, if patients arrive with chronic back pain, they initially may see a physician's assistant. But that physician's assistant would be able to refer patients to a chiropractor or a physical therapist down the hall for additional care. If a patient's obesity contributes to the problem, the patient would be able to see a dietitian in the same building.

"It's a continuum of wrap-around care to optimize patient outcomes and hopefully improve people's health," said Maureen F. Finney, dean of D'Youville's School of Health Professions.

The hub would dovetail with a plan for the college of about 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students to grow by 25 percent. The college projects more than half the growth coming from students doing online coursework, but the college anticipates its on-campus student population to increase by about 250 students.

Finney said the state Labor Department estimates the Buffalo area will need 10,000 more health professionals by 2024, including physician assistants, nurse practitioners and registered nurses.

The new hub would allow the college to prepare students in an interdisciplinary approach that's "ahead of the curve in terms of where health education needs to be," said Finney.

Most upstate cities have similar needs when it comes to health care for residents, and the health professions hub could be replicated in other markets, Clemo said.

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