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University of Tennessee Begins Renovation to Medical School

The University of Tennessee's Graduate School of Medicine began construction on its $8 million addition Monday morning. The new wing, attached to the UT Medical Center's Department of Family Medicine, will add an imaging room for ultrasounds and X-rays, two procedure rooms, at least eighteen exam rooms, a sixty-seat auditorium, and areas dedicated to work and study for medical residents.

The first phase of construction, totaling $2 million, is scheduled for completion in March of 2012. The majority of funding came from a Health Resources and Services Agency Administration grant of $1.35 million, and the rest was a donation from a local family. The university is currently involved in a $6 million fundraising effort for updates to its clinical and office spaces.

"The patients will see instead of a large group practice there will [be] smaller private practice settings where [there] will be much more efficient, greater continuity of care with their providers and a small group of physicians to see," said Dr. Gregory Blake, Chair of the Department of Family Medicine.

One of the best opportunities for Masters Degree students at the school will be the use of skill labs with enough space to accommodate equipment that is not getting adequate use in its current location. There will be an additional 3,700 feet of clinic space, including four themed suites designed to provide a comforting environment for patients. There will be a faculty member serving as a "Senior Practice Partner" for each suite, so that the center will have a few mini-practices in which the graduate students can practice teamwork, gain exposure to a variety of ambulatory issues, and increase the level of consistency in care provided by the center.

"With new services and improved educational offerings, we will have the complete package," Dr. Blake said. "It will put us equal to some of our peer institutions and put us on the cutting edge of family medicine and residency training."

According to the UT Medical Center's website, many of the operations that will take place in the new wing currently reside in the Henry H. Lyon Sr. Family Medicine Center, which is 60 years old and has not been renovated since the 1970s. The site says that "[o]ver the last four decades, the number of patients, physicians and services has doubled within the existing space." It is approximately one square foot for every patient it serves (20,000 of each), making the need for expansion quite apparent. UT offers programs in MPH Degree and Masters in Nursing.

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