Predicting the future is normally the province of soothsayers, science fiction writers and meteorologists. But sometimes, a flash of inspiration offers a glimpse of what’s ahead.
David Szymanski provided a spark at the October meeting of the Flagler Tiger Bay Club and offered a vision of public/private partnership to meet the region’s healthcare needs now and into the future.
Szymanski, president emeritus of the University of North Florida and the CEO and Executive Director of UNF MedNexus, spoke about the project to create the nation’s first comprehensive, university-based medical and healthcare nexus, creating partnerships with local medical centers and connecting healthcare providers with university students, faculty and researchers. The facility will be located in Palm Coast’s Town Center area.
MedNexus would become the hub of collaboration for area hospitals, medical schools, rehabilitation centers and technology companies along with local universities, colleges and high schools.
“If you don’t have a big vision, if you don’t have aspirations, you’re never going to accomplish big things,” Szymanski said.
Szymanski said a comment from a member of UNF’s Board of Trustees about starting a medical school at the Jacksonville university made him think about the region and “do something that is relatively unique.”
He identified the quality of healthcare available in the region and the shortage of healthcare professionals and saw an opportunity.
“There’s a shortage of everything out there, but there’s particularly a shortage in healthcare and has been for a long period of time and will be for decades to come,” he said.
Bringing together colleges and universities to train more nurses, social workers and other healthcare workers in partnership with local governments and school districts and private companies offers the best chance to address the shortages and build for the future.
“It takes multiple hands to accomplish something,” he said. “We’re bringing people together in different ways to do new things.”
Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin said the MedNexus project is also significant for the economy.
“For the city of Palm Coast, this is as strong a statement on economic development as I have seen in the history of the city,” he said.
Alfin said the project “completes a full circle” from the area’s primary and secondary schools – including Flagler School’s Flagship Programs – continuing through college and university training and onto careers in healthcare. And that helps build the community – especially one with an older demographic that needs quality healthcare – and encourages those starting out to stay in the area.
“We’re keeping our students here, which we’ve been trying to do for years,” he said. “When I talk about the complete circle, that’s as full a circle of life as I can explain.”