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University Celebrates New, Innovative, Health Care Center with Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony

Facility offers students and patients a collaborative, holistic approach to services

Students and faculty from the College of Health Professions and College of Nursing are making the most of the latest technology and modern features at hand in Sacred Heart’s new Center for Healthcare Education (CHE) at 4000 Park Ave., Bridgeport.

At the CHE’s ribbon-cutting ceremony in late September, Rupendra Paliwal, provost and vice president for academic affairs, welcomed the group gathered for the dedication, which included students, faculty, senior administrators, staff and special guests: State Senator Tony Hwang; State Representatives Cristin McCarthy-Vahey and Steve Strafstrom; Dan Roach from Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim’s office; and Michael Tetreau, first selectman of Fairfield. Paliwal called the new building “interesting, dynamic and architecturally compelling…a testament to Sacred Heart University’s growth, vision, innovation, dedication to academic excellence, service to the community and commitment to compassionate caring.”

Offering remarks before Father Tony Ciorra, vice president for Mission and Catholic Identity, blessed the site, President John J. Petillo said, “The expanded space and updated equipment will offer new opportunities for learning and ensure that students graduate well prepared and ready to make their mark in the booming health care industry.”

One of those opportunities is the ability of faculty and students to offer multi-professional clinics that will expose students and patients to a collaborative, holistic approach to services for everyone from children to the elderly. Disciplines that will collaborate in patient services include:  athletic trainingexercise sciencenursingoccupational therapyphysical therapyphysician assistant and speech-language pathology.

Two years in the making

For years, the College of Health Professions and College of Nursing operated out of a building in Trumbull. Construction crews broke ground on the new site in June 2015 and spent the next two years building the three-story, 120,000-square-foot center and 50,000-square-foot parking garage, which both sit on 8.7 acres of land. The building was designed by SLAM, a national architectural firm based in Glastonbury, and is a $65 million investment for the University.

The center houses laboratory and classroom facilities designed to support a collaborative, team-based learning environment. There is an immersive, acute-care simulation lab with video and data-capture capability to provide enhanced feedback on performance in a clinical setting. Instructors no longer will have to stand over students as they go through a simulation; instead, they can record the video and provide guidance afterward alongside the students.

Rooms in the CHE are large, allowing collaborative activities involving more than one program. Social spaces both inside and outside the building encourage interaction among students and between faculty and students. In addition, the center’s proximity to the main campus gives faculty and students more opportunity to participate in University events than they had previously.

An outdoor, multi-purpose amphitheater is available for both large and small group discussions and will expand the capacity for problem-based tutorials‎. The center also is available to host professional activities for health-care providers in the community and will be the hub for coordinating community-based programming supported by the colleges, such as global health and service learning activities. Workshops and lectures will take place throughout the academic year to celebrate the new facility and inform the community about the importance of health care.

College of Health Professions

Patricia Walker, dean of the College of Health Professions, told guests at the ribbon-cutting that the new center will “allow a closer relationship between academics and the surrounding communities by adding to our service offerings with hearing testing in our new audiology suite, driving assessments in our driving simulator and sports performance injury prevention and wellness-oriented services throughout our expanded motion analysis and human performance laboratories.”

Enhanced athletic training, along with the human performance and motion-analysis labs, provide up-to-the-minute learning environments for the exercise science and athletic training programs. These will be used to develop clinical skills and evidenced-based practice and also will support faculty/student research. The equipment will prepare students for careers in patient care, for which they will evaluate the physical performance of individuals with injuries and chronic conditions.

The College of Health Professions includes more than 1,000 undergraduate, post-baccalaureate and graduate students and 56 full-time faculty members. It offers bachelor’s degrees, graduate certificate programs, master’s degree programs and a doctoral program in physical therapy. U.S.News and World Report ranked SHU’s physical therapy program as the best in Connecticut and among the top five in New England. Graduates of SHU’s occupational therapy and athletic training programs hold a 100 percent pass rate on certification exams.

College of Nursing

“Our students are going to be truly amazed by this facility and all it has to offer,” said Mary Alice Donius, dean of the College of Nursing. “There are many exciting opportunities for our nursing students—not only to practice on our state-of-the-art mannequins and actors, but to collaborate on cases with students in the other health disciplines. This will ensure that students in all the disciplines will be prepared for the kind of interactions they will experience when they begin to work in professional health-care settings.”

Donius called the building “extraordinary,” providing the foundation for “untold opportunities for creative and innovative teaching and learning,” though, she said, “It is the faculty and students who will bring the structure to life.”

Nursing student Rebecca Lee ’18, who is president of the Student Nurses Association, commended the University’s excellent nursing faculty and added that the school “now has the right tools and the very best, state-of-the-art facility to train the next generation of health care professionals.”

The College of Nursing includes 1,400 students in undergraduate, graduate and online programs and 37 full-time faculty members. It offers bachelor’s and master’s degree programs and a post-master doctoral degree in nursing practice.

Sacred Heart’s nursing program was ranked fourth in Connecticut by the online nursing service,, because of SHU graduates’ high pass rates on the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nursing  a standardized test candidates must pass to practice nursing.

For more information on the Center for Healthcare Education, visit