Convocation Friday celebrates milestone

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – In 1960 the West Virginia University Health Sciences Center and University Hospital opened to great fanfare and high expectations. Until that time, there had been a shortage of healthcare professionals in the state, and access to healthcare was a challenge for many, especially for those with serious medical issues.

Over the past 50 years, thousands of WVU Health Sciences graduates in medicine, nursing, dentistry, pharmacy and other health professions have cared for patients in every corner of the state and throughout the country.  West Virginians who need specialty care have relied on WVU Healthcare physicians, hospitals and outpatient clinics to provide the highest quality of care, without having to leave the state.

“A half a century ago, West Virginia University made a promise to the people of this state,” WVU Health Sciences Chancellor Christopher C. Colenda, M.D., M.P.H., said. “In exchange for their support, we created a network of people and institutions that is by far the largest force for health in our state.”

The original health sciences and hospital building was built a penny at a time through the pop tax, thanks to the foresight and determination of Gov. Okey Patteson. 

“As promised in 1960, we have changed the face of healthcare in the state,” Colenda said. “Our schools, our hospitals and clinics, and our research labs offer a welcoming beacon to the best and brightest young West Virginians – and attract a steady stream of well-educated, strongly motivated and highly productive people from around the world to West Virginia.”

The West Virginia economy is $2.2 billion larger because of the presence of WVU’s health sciences schools, clinics, and hospitals, according to a study completed earlier this year by Tripp Umbach, a Pittsburgh research firm. Based on 2009 data, the firm calculated that 15,600 jobs statewide exist because of WVU-related health spending. State and local governments collected $191 million in tax revenue from businesses and individuals associated with WVU Healthcare and the schools.

The anniversary of WVU Health Sciences is being celebrated at a Convocation for the health sciences and university communities at 4 p.m. today (Friday, Oct. 15) at the Creative Arts Center in Morgantown.  Harvey V. Fineberg, M.D., Ph.D., president of the Institute of Medicine, is the keynote speaker.  Sen. Jay Rockefeller also will attend the celebration.

The Fall 2010 issue of “WVUhealth” magazine examines and illustrates the history and accomplishments of WVU Health Sciences, and can be accessed electronically at a special HSC 50th website:

For more information: Amy Johns, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087