Long Beach Memorial Medical Center will open a clinic on the Cal State Long Beach campus as part of a new partnership to combine education with practice and increase the number of health workers entering the workforce.

The 15,000-square-foot clinic will be located on the ground floor of a new College of Health and Human Services building, with construction slated to begin in the summer of 2024, according to University President Jane Close Conoley. The facility is expected to open in spring 2026.

Memorial will operate the clinic—which will have free parking for patients—and offer a variety of services, including primary care, geriatric assessment, back pain and sports medicine, Stephen Cesca, chief strategy officer for Memorial, told the Business Journal.

“This is innovative and the first of its kind in the state,” Cesca said of the clinic, adding that the public-private partnership could become a model nationwide that brings education and health care together, rather than operating in silos.

“This is a great example of MemorialCare reinvesting in our workforce and our community to ensure there’s an adequate supply of health care professionals to meet the upcoming needs,” Yair Katz, chief executive at Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital, added.

Exacerbated through the pandemic, there is a nationwide shortage of nurses and other health care professionals. Cal State Long Beach’s nursing program, often ranked as one of the top in the state, is highly impacted, and competing for placement for clinical rotations can delay graduation.

When students need their clinical rotations, they are sent all over the region to different locations, Cesca said, and the university just hopes they are getting a good experience.

“Now the university can actually assure that they’re getting good experiences, which helps get them through more efficiently,” Cesca said, adding that some of the faculty are clinicians who will provide care as they teach, creating a more steady continuum of education.

“It’s a much more controlled teaching environment,” he said.

The clinic also will make it more convenient for teachers who need to keep up their clinical competencies, Cesca said, noting that juggling clinical work and teaching can be a challenge when commuting is involved.

For Memorial, the clinic also will serve in furthering its mission to serve the community by bringing services closer to more residents’ homes through an expanded footprint, Cesca said.

The new clinic is not specifically for students, though they can receive care at the facility with insurance, but rather the community at large, Cesca said. Within the Greater Long Beach area, there are over 1 million residents, he said, about 13% of whom are seniors, half of which have multiple chronic conditions.

The campus’s Student Health Services will continue treating students.

The rest of the 125,000-square-foot HHS building, meanwhile, will cater to various clinical practices such as dietary evaluation, nutrition counseling, exercise prescription, mental and behavioral health, and speech and language therapies.

One idea being considered for the facility is a special cafeteria for the university’s athletes, Conoley said. The meals would be scientifically crafted in the hopes of improving performance, she said. The school is working to get a pilot program off the ground with the men’s and women’s basketball teams, Conoley added.

The university also is looking to create a public health school within the College of Health and Human Services, according to Conoley.

“The need for public health [professionals], especially those who come from different backgrounds, was certainly made clear during the pandemic,” Conoley said.

The new structure will replace two existing buildings on East Campus Drive—Peterson Hall 1, which was built in 1965 and is one of the university’s oldest buildings, and Faculty Office 5, which was a temporary building, according to Conoley.

Peterson Hall 1 currently houses various student groups, including the Black Student Union and other cultural affinity groups, according to Conoley.

“They will be the first to tell you that the building is not good anymore—there are no elevators, no air conditioning,” Conoley said. “We’re currently looking for a better space for them.”

In addition to being substandard for student and staff use, Conoley said the old buildings use up large amounts of energy. So tearing them down and replacing them with modern facilities will actually save the university operational money in the long term, she said.

The total project is expected to cost $171 million, with most of the funding coming from a capital allocation from the CSU system, according to university spokesperson Gregory Woods. To date, however, $10 million in philanthropic funds have already been raised.