JACKSON, Tenn. – Aug. 31, 2004 – The Executive Committee of Union University’s Board of Trustees voted Tuesday to proceed with construction of a science building and to send the proposal for a Certified Nurse Anesthetist Program for a final vote of the full board later this month. They also heard about the appointment of Dr. Timothy Smith as the new dean of the School of Nursing.
The science building project has been delayed because of the tornadoes of 2002 and 2003, as well as funding and space issues, according to Trustee Chairman Mike Weeks.
Initial plans called for a two-story building that would house the departments of biology and chemistry. However, with the proposal for a CRNA program, the project has been expanded to include a third story for the School of Nursing, including space for the proposed CRNA program.
“I think the delay of the building’s construction was in God’s providence,” said Dr. Lisa Rogers, a local physician and a Union board member. “It will enable us to meet the needs of this much-needed program.”
With the board’s approval, the CRNA program would begin in the 2005-2006 academic year. The new graduate program proposal includes a 30-month curriculum designed for those who already hold a nursing degree. West Tennessee Healthcare recently committed a $2.5 million gift to support the proposed program.
Executive Committee members also heard about the appointment of Dr. Timothy Smith as dean of the School of Nursing. Smith currently leads the CRNA program at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. He will begin his duties January 1. Tharon Kirk has served as interim dean for the past year.
“He is currently the only Ph.D. in nursing in the state of Tennessee who holds the CRNA degree and has experience in leading CRNA programs,” said Provost Carla Sanderson. “It seems to be further confirmation that Union University should move forward with this graduate program for the good of the West Tennessee healthcare community.”
Recent statistics indicate a projected shortfall of 7,000 CRNAs by 2005, according to Sanderson. Because of decreased enrollments in nursing programs in general during the 1990s and the subsequent decrease in the pool of nurses eligible for CRNA certification, the workforce shortfall is expected to rise until at least the year 2020.
President David S. Dockery said that he was thankful for the unanimous and enthusiastic support of the Board on these important matters.
“It is amazing to me to watch a diverse group of trustees like we have cohere in their support of Union’s mission and these far-reaching projects,” he said. “The science building and the CRNA program have the potential to advance the work of Union University in very significant ways. The addition of Tim Smith, who is incredibly qualified to lead our School of Nursing at this time, is a blessing beyond measure.”
by Kathie Chute