In recent years, if you tried to schedule an appointment with your doctor, you probably were told it would be several weeks before you can see someone. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 has only added to that time frame.
And analysts for the medical community do not see immediate improvement for Arizona even after the pandemic subsides. More people are coming to the state and its livable climate. That includes older individuals adding to an already expanding senior population.
All of which is why the announcement nearly two years ago that Creighton University is building a new health sciences campus in Phoenix is welcome news not only to patients but the profession and those who plan a career in medicine.
“The need for health care workers in the Southwest was already well-documented before the pandemic hit,” stated Catherine Todero, Ph.D., vice provost of Health Sciences Campuses for Creighton and dean of the College of Nursing, in an email. “Many professions are experiencing major retirement cycles, and the stress of COVID-19 may accelerate that phenomenon. Creighton’s new campus will provide much-needed capacity for health care education for the entire Southwest area,” Todero continued.
Founded by Jesuits in 1878, Creighton is one of 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States today and is attended by more than 8,000 students, according to its website.
Construction on the new Health Sciences Phoenix campus began in September 2019, and the $100 million, 180,000-square-foot campus is scheduled to open for classes this fall.
“Within the next few years, Creighton expects to enroll more than 900 students there, studying to be future physicians, nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, pharmacists, and physician assistants. Combined with the university’s Omaha campus, this would make Creighton one of the largest Catholic health professions educators in the United States,” Todero said.
The campus will be in downtown Phoenix, on the west side of Central Avenue between Osborn and Thomas roads on a site that had been part of the Park Central shopping mall. The Greater Phoenix Economic Council estimates the expansion will create more than 250 jobs, $124.5 million in personal income, $12 million in tax revenue and more than $300 million in total economic output.
But the main impact will be on the medical community and higher education.
“Many professions are experiencing major retirement cycles, and the stress of COVID-19 may accelerate that phenomenon. Creighton’s new campus will provide much-needed capacity for health care education for the entire Southwest.”
The campus’s certificate of occupancy will be issued in late March, when the work begins to get the building prepared for students, faculty, and staff, according to Derek Scott, Creighton’s associate vice president of facilities management. Occupancy will start in May and will phase in over the next two months until the building is fully occupied, Scott stated. The project was not affected by any delays due to the pandemic, he said.
Creighton is not new to the Phoenix area.
The university began sending medical students to Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center for clinical rotations. That relationship expanded in 2009 when Creighton and St. Joseph’s formally established a Creighton campus for 3rd- and 4th-year students. The hospital is just west of the new campus building.
In addition to Creighton, there are five other medical schools in Arizona. Several other institutions offer medical-specialties degrees.
Yet, more medical education — and more health care professionals — are desperately needed here.
According to the Arizona Primary Care Physician Workforce Report 2019 by the University of Arizona Center for Rural Health, Arizona ranks 31st of 50 states in total physicians with active licenses. There are 235.8 physicians per 100,000 residents.
The Grand Canyon State ranks 42nd for total active primary care physicians (PCPs) at 77.9 per 100,000 residents. The figure for the entire United States is 91.7 active PCPs per 100,000.
Besides population growth and an expanding elderly segment, the state has many rural areas without enough health care professionals.
The UofA report, citing figures from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and The Robert Graham Center — which does research for the American Academy of Family Physicians — says the state needs 558 PCPs now, and an additional 1,941 by the year 2030.
In addition, Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation in 2019 making Arizona the first state in the country at the time to recognize occupational licenses for new residents.
“We know to meet our growing demand, Arizona needs to grow our supply of health care professionals. And that’s exactly what this new campus will help us do,” Ducey said during the 2019 groundbreaking ceremony.
Creighton is the state’s only Catholic-based school for higher learning in medicine.
“Creighton is known for producing health professionals committed to the Jesuit value of caring for the whole patient—mind, body and spirit. Our graduates then go on to careers in which service for and with others is central to their practices,” noted Todero,
“We’re training to care about people. It’s not a job, it’s a vocation, and we really believe it’s a ministry – the ministry of Jesus Christ to care for others and their needs,” said Fr. Kevin Dilworth, SJ, chaplain of Creighton’s Phoenix regional campus, at the September 2019 event.
“I’m so grateful to God for this Catholic University coming to be part of the city of Phoenix and the state of Arizona,” Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted told the gathering that day. “We trust the Jesus who came not only to heal souls and bring redemption but also to heal bodies is very near with us today.”
The new campus gives high school guidance counselors and their peers another option to promote to students.
“It is always wonderful to welcome a Catholic institution of higher learning into our community. Creighton University will be no exception,” stated Diocese of Phoenix Catholic Schools Superintendent Domonic Salce in an email. “It will expand a much-needed area of study and allow our students an additional opportunity to pursue a medical career while remaining in the community,” he continued.
“It will expand a much-needed area of study and allow our students an additional opportunity to pursue a medical career while remaining in the community.”
“All of us at Brophy were very happy to see Creighton expand to Phoenix. Our excitement stems both from the increased opportunity it will offer everyone in the Valley who is interested in pursuing a medical career and in knowing how impactful and extraordinary a Catholic, Jesuit education is,” stated Adria Renke, president, Brophy College Preparatory, the Valley’s only Jesuit-based high school, in an email.
“I hold Creighton Medical School near and dear to my heart since both my brother and great-uncle graduated from there. Having an opportunity for Xavier students to receive professional and faith-based ethical education is a tremendous benefit to our students and the entire Phoenix community,” stated Sister Joan Fitzgerald, BVM, president of Xavier College Preparatory, the Catholic all-girls school in central Phoenix.
Prospective students can request information about Creighton health sciences programs offered in Phoenix by visiting https://healthsciences.creighton.edu/phoenix and clicking on each of the links for the individual programs — each has different processes and timelines, said university spokeswoman Cindy Workman in an email. Nursing admits twice a year, other programs only once per year.
Creighton is currently recruiting for several faculty and staff positions for its Phoenix campus. Interested professionals should visit the Human Resources website for Creighton University, https://creighton.referrals.selectminds.com.
Additional information, including specific medical training techniques, and Creighton’s partnership with Arizona State University is available in a 3-minute video at