The University of Louisiana at Lafayette and LHC Group struck a two-partner pact that presents not just two winning concerns but three: The public university, with its stellar nursing program; the national health care company, based in Lafayette; and health care consumers in 35 states who need home health care, such as that provided by LHC.
LHC said it would donate — no, “invest” — $20 million over a decade into the university in a partnership that benefits the company, which hires and trains many nurses there and the university, which has more than 2,100 students in bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs. Initially, the largesse will affect online education most, but eventually, the investment will affect some 55 programs of study at UL Lafayette. The $20 million private investment is the largest ever received by the public university, part of the UL System of nine institutions statewide.
Melinda Oberleitner, dean of the College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions, said LHC chose to partner with UL Lafayette in recognition of the nursing program’s national and regional stature and because of the company’s and campus’ longstanding “deep ties.” Talks about the partnership began before the pandemic but culminated with the announcement two weeks ago.
But the deal was more than just business. Keith and Ginger Myers, who founded the company, have a personal history with the university which includes their son’s education: He worked through his doctorate in nursing there. The Department of Nursing will be renamed the LHC Group Myers College of Nursing, pending approval by the UL System’s Board of Supervisors.
About $9 million of the LHC contribution will go toward construction of the college’s planned $65 million Health Sciences Building. Among many benefits, the funds will endow the simulation lab program, establish an endowed deanship, increase scholarship funding and faculty research.
Ben Doga, LHC’s chief medical officer, said Acadiana and the nation need more nurses — no professionals are more in demand or will be for the next decade. Louisiana and the nation were made abundantly aware of that during the pandemic but changing demographics apart from COVID-19 made that plain. With Baby Boomers aging, the demand for nurses and home health care will increase.
Along with new nurses is a relentless demand for training, as health care itself evolves. The LHC investment will ensure continuing education through online classes at affordable rates for their nursing professionals other others.
In a historic time — 2020 was the year of the nurse; 2021 marks the 70th anniversary of the College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions — this historic investment may prove to be as transformational as it has been touted. That’s good for UL Lafayette, for LHC and other health care providers and for those who will need quality health care in Louisiana and beyond.