Holding shovels and sporting helmets, USF administrators and student leaders broke ground Tuesday afternoon on a multimillion-dollar facility set to modernize and expand services focused on student health and well-being on the Tampa campus.
The Student Wellness Center, a three-story, 47,000-square-foot building, will expand the current services and operations offered through Student Health Services (SHS) to better meet student needs, according to Joseph Puccio, executive and medical director of SHS. The facility will be located on the Tampa campus, next to the Recreation and Wellness Center on USF Genshaft Drive, and is scheduled to open in fall 2022.
The $27.4 million building will be entirely funded by the Capital Improvement Trust Fund (CITF) fee, a fee paid by students at the start of each semester. The project emerged from a collaboration between Student Government (SG) and the USF CITF Advisory Committee and required approval by USF President Steven Currall, the Board of Trustees and the Florida Board of Governors prior to construction.
The project began in 2015 when SG leaders met with USF administration at the time to communicate their commitment on building a new health facility on the Tampa campus to meet the increasing demand of over 50,000 students. The project was then introduced and approved by the CITF Advisory Committee and the student body that same year.
Since then, the project has been saving the CITF fees in order to fully fund its construction.
Puccio said the current SHS building isn’t fit to expand services nor meet the increasing demands the students have demonstrated over the past year due to the pandemic.
“Our student population has outgrown the existing Student Health Services building, limiting our ability to adequately serve our students,” said Puccio. “By moving forward with a significantly larger, modern, one-stop health care facility, our professional staff will be better equipped to serve our student population, ultimately helping them to remain focused on their academics.”
The center will be four times larger than the current SHS building and offer general medical, urgent care and specialty services, including sexual health and gynecology, physical therapy, dermatology, immunizations, psychiatry and behavioral health, nutrition and travel medicine, according to Vice President for Student Success Paul Dosal.
The building will also feature a point-of-collection laboratory services and a pharmacy, according to Dosal. He said the new center will house the entire SHS team “under one roof” and will allow staff to work and operate more efficiently to meet the needs of the campus’ growing student population.
“This truly is a building of the students, for the students,” Dosal said. “As we continue our commitment to deliver the right support at the right time to the right students, this new facility will allow us to do so with preeminent care for our students.”
In light of the pandemic, the building’s design will feature upgraded filters for its air handling unit to help mitigate the airborne spread of viruses as well as an exterior overhang to support outdoor clinical operations. The project was designed by CannonDesign and will be constructed by Barr and Barr and Horus Construction Services.
Currall said the new center will allow the university to offer “enhanced services to support the physical, mental and emotional health of today’s students.”
“The University of South Florida has long recognized that health and wellness are integral to the success of our students. The pandemic has only heightened the importance of health and wellness in USF’s mission to deliver world class educational experience for all of our students,” he said.
“As such, today’s groundbreaking for a state of the art Wellness Center reflects USF’s institutional core commitment to provide services and facilities needed to actualize personal and academic success.”