Luther F. Carter Center for Health Sciences now open

Carter Center
The newly opened Carter Center will house six programs at the beginning of its use. More programs, such as a speech pathology program, will eventually be housed in the building. Photo by Rachel Droze

FMU held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Luther F. Carter Center for Health Sciences (CCHS) on Aug. 4, marking the beginning of more graduate healthcare programs.

University officials hope that The Carter Center will allow growth for FMU healthcare programs as well as facilitate downtown development.

“The city is a good partner for us,” FMU Provost Dr. Peter King aid. “It is all coming together in a good way down there.”

The Carter Center was placed in the downtown area to allow for students to be closer to the hospital and contribute to the local efforts for downtown revitalization.

“The Carter Center for Health Sciences is a great place to showcase any number of graduate health science programs,” Dr. Ruth Wittman-Price, dean of the School for the Health Sciences, said. “It is close to our practice partners and promotes interprofessional education and collaboration. My hope is to see the halls, classrooms, and laboratories buzzing with interprofessional intellectual discussion about healthcare for the Pee Dee region and South Carolina.”

The Carter Center was fully funded from private donations and grants from the city and state governments.

“It was a consortium of private donations,” King said. “I think that the city helped us and the state government. Tuition did not go into providing that. It was other parties that came together.”

The Drs. Bruce and Lee Foundation donated approximately $7.5 million of the $15.5 million it took to build the Carter Center.

The opening of the Carter Center marked the beginning of the FMU School of Health Sciences.

The school brought six new healthcare graduate programs to FMU including a Physician Assistant Program and a Healthcare Administration MBA program.

Thirty-two students will enter the Physician Assistant Program this fall. According to Paul Demarco, dean of the Physician Assistant Program, eight of those students are FMU graduates.

All of the professors instructing classes in the Physician Assistant Program have experience in the field, and some of them continue to work locally, Demarco said.

According to Demarco, FMU has been in the planning process for adding the Physician Assistant Program for the past nine years. However, set backs from the recession in the economy slowed them down.

“In 2012 FMU put together their efforts again,” Demarco said. “The process takes about four years to complete. It’s a very rigorous accreditation process.”

FMU officials worked in correlation with Wake Forest to develop the curriculum for the program, Demarco said.

According to Demarco, the Physician Assistant Program seeks to produce physician assistants to serve the unserved patients of the Pee Dee as well as the state.

The Carter Center features the Sompong Kraikit Simulation Laboratory, which is a lab where healthcare students can come work with mannequins that simulate real situations students would face within their jobs.

According to Wittmann-Price, the lab can be utilized by other disciplines such as theatre and biology as well as community healthcare organizations.

The Carter Center also houses third and fourth year medical students from the University of South Carolina (USC) School of Medicine.

“Third and fourth year medical students are given the option to come to Florence just like any other destination,” Wittmann-Price said. “Florence is sought after for its wonderful medical community and great acceptations.”

USC students will begin at The Carter Center this year.

The next installment to the FMU School of Health Sciences is a speech pathology program, according to King.

“The next step is to be approved by the Commission on Higher Education, and we think that will happen by October,” King said. “Then we need to get the program accredited. The curriculum and things like that must be accredited before students can enter the program.”

The Speech Pathology Program is projected to begin during the fall semester of 2017.