Board of Regents Approve Rural Health Care Complex at UNK, Carter Gets Extension

Aug. 11, 2022, 1:20 p.m. ·

A digital rendering of the health complex in Kearney
Renderings of the UNK-UNMC Rural Health Education Building to be built on the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus. (Photo courtesy UNK & UNMC)

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The University of Nebraska at Kearney will soon have a $85 million rural health complex. The University of Nebraska Board of Regents approved the project at Thursday’s meeting.

The regents and university chancellors hope the joint UNK and University of Nebraska Medical Center building will help shrink the gap in the health care access between rural and urban communities.

“I promise we're going to make you very proud of this initiative,” UNK chancellor Doug Kristensen told the regents before the vote. “For many, many years, you're going to be proud of this.”

The new facilities will be funded by $50 million from the state’s American Rescue Plan money, and another $35 million will come from private university fundraising.

Doug Kristensen and Jeffrey Gold present to the Nebraska Board of Regents
University of Nebraska at Kearney Chancellor Doug Kristensen (left) and University of Nebraska Medical Center Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, address the University of Nebraska Board of Regents Thursday on the Rural Health Education Building at UNK. (Photo courtesy UNK & UNMC)

Fourteen of Nebraska’s 93 counties don’t have a primary care physician, and statistics like that motivated District Six regent Paul Kenney from central Nebraska to vote in favor of the complex.

“In my five-and-a-half years, I have never had a topic that had this many people on one side of the line,” said Kenney, whose hometown is 15 miles northwest of Kearney.

The rural health complex, which will begin construction September 2023, will expand the college’s existing health care programs and also open the possibility for adding colleges of medicine, pharmacy and public health.

UNK and UNMC previously built the Health Science Education Complex in Kearney seven years ago, which was the first phase of expanding health care access in rural parts of the state.

“Adding a second health-science focused building at UNK creates opportunities for students who want to both pursue – and practice – their health careers closer to home, which help us build a stronger rural workforce, increase access to rural care and help communities thrive,” said Jeffrey Gold, the chancellor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, in a statement. “In short, it will transform lives for generations.”

With Thursday's approval, the universities anticipate the health complex will be finished by summer of 2025.

University of Nebraska President Ted Carter
Ted Carter serves at the president of the University of Nebraska system. (Photo courtesy University of Nebraska)

In other business, University of Nebraska system president Ted Carter received a pay raise and contract extension at Thursday’s meeting. Carter was hired in 2019, and his new contract runs through 2027.

“Over the past three years, we've seen the impact that President Carter has made and can continue to make on our University,” said Elizabeth O’Connor, the District Four regent from Omaha. “He's exceeded all of our expectations and elevated the university to the level that it needs to perform in order to continue to serve Nebraska.”

The regents voted unanimously to approve Carter’s salary, which includes a 3% base pay increase. Carter’s new salary now surpasses $1.5 million with bonus incentives.