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New Student Health and Wellness Center opens

The new 41,000 square-foot Student Health and Wellness Center began offering student services this Monday and will host an opening ceremony in the fall. ORACLE PHOTO / JUSTIN SEECHARAN

USF Student Health Services (SHS) opened the new Student Health and Wellness Center  (SHWC), located near the parking lot of the Yuengling Center, on Monday. 

With 41,000 square-feet and 68 exam rooms stocked with college student health-related needs, the center will reconfigure the student health experience, according to Executive Director of Medical Services Joseph Puccio.

“We provide general medical services, we provide sexual health and gynecology, we have an urgent care facility, physical therapy, nutrition, immunization office and compliance for insurance, a phlebotomy lab and a pharmacy,” Puccio said. 

Open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every weekday in the summer and until 5:30 p.m in the fall and spring semesters, the new SHWC building offers a wide assortment of resources compiled from the previously used health buildings, including the pharmacy located in the Marshall Student Center (MSC) and the original SHS building next to the Bookstore. 

While the MSC Pharmacy will remain open until the SHWC pharmacy opens on May 30, the SHS building is officially closed.

The project has been in development with Student Government and Student Health Services since 2015, according to Puccio.

“Back in 2015, we really kind of realized that the level and quality of health care that needs to be provided for the students needs to be state of the art and that it needs to happen in a modern standards type of building for healthcare,” Puccio said.

Although construction began in June 2021 and the building was projected to open in January 2023, the opening was delayed because of supply chain management issues, according to Puccio.

However, Puccio said the building is now fully functional and saw 98 students on its opening day. SHS is targeting a 275-300 daily attendance goal during peak campus traffic.

The final budget was $27 million, an amount accrued through incremental $4-5 million annual lump sums from the student Campus Improvement Trust Fund (CITF), according to Puccio.

“I think that their commitment of saving that money year after year, to build up the money to pay for this building, really shows their commitment to health care and mental health for the students,” Puccio said.

Puccio said the SHWC will also address the growing concern regarding mental health care with the services of 3.5 Full Time Effort (FTE) psychiatrists, one FTE caseload manager and between two to four FTE counselors.

Although the old SHS building only had 21 exam rooms which led to frequent delays in student care, Puccio said the streamlined expansion offered through the new building should rectify any previous inefficiencies.

“We know that time is very precious when you’re in college, and we’re trying to really be mindful of your time and making sure that you have a good medical experience as well as a timely experience.”

In addition to expanding the scope of medical care offered by USF, Puccio said the new SHWC will contain two distinct ventilation systems.

“Our urgent care area has its own separate ventilation system. So if we ever had to deal with another infectious disease process such as COVID-19, we would have a specific area where we can see patients that would not contaminate the rest of the building,” Puccio said.

Unlike the current building which has a solitary ventilation system, the SHWC features two distinct, autonomous ventilation systems, according to Puccio. The differences in the ventilation system and the new building’s significant increase in size will allow the SHWC to remain open in the case of an outbreak similar to COVID-19, according to Puccio.

Although the SHWC is currently open for use, the grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place in the fall when more students return to campus, according to Puccio.

Puccio said the new SHWC fosters a new era of prioritizing student needs.

“The building really shows the commitment to the students that the university has to provide high quality medical care… The way things have been very specifically thought through in the designing and planning has really made the students feel like their time is valuable, as well as their health care, and that we want to make sure that both of those goals are efficiently achieved,” Puccio said.