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UNF MedNexus: Education combined with technology (Courtesy of the Jacksonville Daily Record) — The University of North Florida is expanding its health care education influence through an initiative called MedNexus.

Supported by a $6 million appropriation in the 2020-21 budget approved by the state Legislature, UNF MedNexus is building a nurse training and simulation center at Florida State College at Jacksonville’s Deerwood Center campus, establishing a health care teaching site in Palm Coast in partnership with Daytona State College and expanding the medical technology innovation lab on UNF’s campus in Jacksonville.

The hub-and-spoke structure of UNF MedNexus is designed to be the first comprehensive, university-based medical and health care nexus in the U.S., partnering with local medical centers to connect health care providers with university students, faculty and researchers.

“I came up with the idea when a board member said it would be great to have a medical school – but that’s not likely,” said former UNF President David Szymanski, who will transition to full-time CEO and executive director of UNF MedNexus on Sept. 17.

While it is not a medical school, MedNexus gives the university a regional health care education footprint and it is “uniquely UNF,” Szymanski said.

“We’ll be able to train the people who work in hospitals – nurses, physical therapists and counselors,” Szymanski said.

In addition to Daytona State College, MedNexus partners include the city of Palm Coast, AdventHealth and Allete Energy.

The program also is working with public high schools in Palm Coast to develop career paths for students to enter higher education and then the health care workforce.

“Florida’s population is growing and aging and there is a shortage of health care professionals,” Szymanski said.

The second phase will be expansion of the medical technology and research facility at UNF.

Szymanski said specialized equipment, such as mass spectrometers, will be used to develop diagnostic techniques that could lead to early detection of cancer and neurological disorders.

The facility also will conduct biomedical and pharmaceutical research. In partnership with Johnson & Johnson, 3D biomedical printing technology will be developed to manufacture medical devices, advanced prosthetics and skin grafts for burn patients, Szymanski said.

“There really are no bounds for MedNexus. With original research, you don’t know where it will lead,” he said.

Logo courtesy of UNF