By Donna Smith, University Communications and Marketing
It’s one of the most modern buildings on campus, and its design is reflective of a post-COVID-19 era. USF’s new three-story, 47,000-square-foot Student Health and Wellness Center looks slightly different than its original plans, developed at the beginning of 2020.
“We made sure we had plenty of overhang space, so if we need to have students line up outside, they’ll be protected from weather,” said Dr. Joseph Puccio, executive and medical director at USF Student Health Services. “Also, our urgent care has a separate ventilation system, so if we have people sick with something like flu, COVID or measles, we’ll be able to see them without contaminating the rest of the building. We also have a room on our general medicine floor with its own separate ventilation system where we can isolate someone who might arrive there with an infectious disease that wasn’t identified earlier.”
The new building is nearly four times the size of the old Student Health Center, which had been located near the USF Tampa bookstore since 1980. It offers services all under one roof, including a pharmacy, which was previously located in another building. New amenities also include 68 exam rooms, a separate, more private suite for psychiatric services, a physical therapy area, individual waiting areas for each department and a lactation room. It offers general medical, urgent care and specialty services, including and gynecology, physical therapy, dermatology, immunizations, nutrition and travel medicine.
“It's a much more open care environment,” Puccio said. “In our old building, we were all on top of each other in the peak of the day. It was loud and very chaotic. Now, with individual waiting areas for the different departments, you would never know if there were 100 people being seen in the different departments.”
By consolidating services, communication has improved among the center’s 80 staff members, such as pharmacists who consult with physicians and nurses. It has also provided new clinical experiences for USF students pursuing degrees in fields such as medicine, nursing, physical therapy, pharmacy and psychiatry.
Rosemary Mulligan is completing her clinical hours at the center for her nurse practitioner program. She said it can be difficult to find a clinical placement in her field, so being able to complete hours there has been a great help to her.
“It’s so much bigger than the old building,” Mulligan said. “And it has a great setup for procedures. I’m grateful to be able to learn there.”
The Medical Response Unit, a free campus medical transport service staffed by trained student and staff volunteers, now has an ambulance bay, a dedicated dispatch area and a charging station for equipment.
Students have been involved in the Student Health and Wellness Center since its early conception. Spencer McCloskey, who was the Tampa campus’s student governor in 2020, served on the planning committee, which included members of Student Government. They worked alongside staff from areas including Facilities, Student Success and Resource Management.
“We attended monthly meetings to decide the location, design and budget,” McCloskey said. “The center had outgrown itself, and as students, we thought it needed to be more prominent. Before, it wasn’t as visible, but now it’s in a highly visible, high-traffic area.”
Due to its more prominent location, Puccio says there has already been a 15 percent increase in the number of students using the health center, which normally averages about 40,000 students each year.
The $27.4 million building is funded by the Capital Improvement Trust Fund fee, a student fee collected over time that state law requires to be used for the construction or purchase of property on a one-time funding basis. Construction was completed by Barr & Barr and Horus, a Tampa-based, minority-owned firm. Cablelytics, one of the companies selected to participate in the USF Office of Supplier Diversity’s Mentor Protégé program, also worked on the building.
McCloskey graduated last May with a bachelor’s degree in business analytics and information systems. He said that he recently drove around campus and was moved to see something that he helped imagine come to life.
“I made me feel proud,” he said. “I saw the new Judy Genshaft Honors College on the left, and the new Health and Wellness Center on the right, and I was amazed by how USF is growing so fast in so many different ways.”
Student presents identification card to receptionist at welcome station.
An empty exam room
students wait in chairs that have retractable desks.