YEAR IN REVIEW: Pfeiffer University’s construction of downtown facility continues
Published 11:38 am Monday, December 30, 2019
Arguably the biggest story in Stanly County over the past year has been the construction of Pfeiffer University’s Center for Health Sciences facility in downtown Albemarle. When completed sometime in late spring/early summer of next year, the four-story facility — which is 43,000 square feet — will be home to students in both the Master of Physician Assistant Studies program and the Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program.
The official groundbreaking ceremony for the facility occurred Jan. 17 and progress has continued throughout the year. On Oct. 29, the final I-beam, signed by Pfeiffer employees, students and community members, was put in place at the top of the building. Another milestone occurred Dec. 17, when the fourth floor of the facility was framed in.
“The future of rural healthcare in this country looks like physicians assistants and looks like occupational therapists,” said Pfeiffer President Dr. Scott Bullard.
He became the 11th president of the university in the summer, after former president Dr. Colleen Keith left to become president at Goldey-Beacum College in Delaware.
In reference to Pfeiffer University and Albemarle, Bullard referred to both as being in a “symbiotic relationship” where the success of one is dependent on the other. And many in the community understand the importance of the health sciences facility.
Bullard said during the summer, he met Doug Stokes of Stokes Construction after church and Stokes told him about the new facility: “This is the most important thing to happen in Albemarle in 100 years.” Bullard said other people have told him similar opinions.
Regarding Stokes’ comments, “it was one of the most humbling experiences of my life,” Bullard said.
Fast forward to November, which was a critical month for Pfeiffer because several important steps were taken in regards to the implementation of the Physician Assistant Studies program.
On Nov. 12, the university’s Physician Assistant studies program received provisional accreditation from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc (ARC-PA).
“This program doesn’t go forward without that accreditation,” Bullard said.
This approval of status allows for Pfeiffer to educate up to 24 Physician Assistant students in the first class in 2020, 36 in the second class in 2021 and 45 in the third class in 2022.
On the same day, Bullard said the university secured two pledges to go toward the health sciences facility totaling $750,000.
A few days later, after receiving accreditation, Pfeiffer interviewed and secured its first class of Physician Assistant students. Though around 300 students showed interest in the program, a total of 22 students have officially enrolled and will make up the inaugural P.A. class. Their orientation starts Jan. 6 and classes will begin on the Misenheimer campus a week later.
Though he does not have complete, up-to-date information about the students, from the information he does possess, Bullard said 17 students are from North Carolina while two are from South Carolina. The 17 students hail from all across the state including Albemarle, Norwood, Charlotte, Concord, Raleigh, Wilmington and Winston-Salem.
“Having them all coalescence at the same time was really a big moment for the program and Pfeiffer and Albemarle and Stanly County,” said Pfeiffer University’s Director of Marketing and Communications Casey Habich.
Pfeiffer’s growth in the community has continued to expand as each floor of the new health facility has been constructed.
“If you ever want to see me at lunchtime, you have a 20 percent chance of seeing me if you walk into Five Points Public House,” Bullard said.
He has a favorite spot by the window where he meets with prospective donors and can see the construction across the street.
Bullard said the university submitted the candidacy package for the occupational therapy program to the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education Dec. 13. Assuming the occupational therapy program gets accredited, the goal is to admit students either in the fall of 2020 or the spring of 2021.
The health sciences facility “would not be happening without the generosity of Stanly County residents and government officials,” Bullard said.
The university plans to honor all of the donors who have helped make the facility a reality in some tangible way.
“We would like every donor to be recognized in some way when this thing opens,” Bullard said.
Possibilities include etching people’s names on bricks and dedicating classrooms in their names.
Looking ahead to 2020, Bullard hopes that after many years of planning, the P.A. program gets off to a great start and that students make a smooth transition from the Misenheimer campus to the downtown Albemarle facility.