A ceremonial groundbreaking was held Friday for the largest academic building in the history of the University of Kentucky. At over 500,000 square feet, the new Health Education Building will house programs in the colleges of MedicinePublic HealthHealth Sciences and Nursing as well as the Center for Interprofessional and Community Health Education. The new facility will become a prominent campus landmark at the intersection of Huguelet and University drives when it opens in 2026.

“As a testament to our collaborative spirit, this one facility will contain programs from four colleges and the Center for Interprofessional and Community Health Education. We will educate students for a new health care future, collaborate through transdisciplinary work and attract and retain the best and brightest to advance Kentucky,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “Our goal — our promise — is that when our students complete these programs and join the workforce, they are well-equipped to face today’s complex challenges and help all Kentuckians live longer and healthier lives.”  

This innovative, state-of-the-art Health Education Building will feature technological advancements, modern aesthetics and a spacious environment conducive to learning and serve as a hub for health education. It will provide an exceptional learning setting preparing the next generation of health care leaders, health and rehabilitation practitioners, nurses, physicians, public health professionals, scientists and more.

“Education is the foundation for how we prepare tomorrow’s leaders, and that is what will propel Kentucky into the future,” said Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman. “This investment will eliminate barriers to success, increase opportunities for students and help us achieve our goal of a quality education for every Kentuckian.”

The building will be located across University Drive from University Flats with eight floors on the south wing and 10 floors utilized on the north wing. Currently, 77% of the space will be dedicated to academic, shared and collaborative spaces for students and faculty, including 25% devoted to classrooms and learning labs and 34% for simulation and experiential learning.

The building’s north wing exterior will feature brick and glass, and as the building transitions, the south wing’s expansive glass front allows faculty workspace offices to receive ample natural light. Along University Drive, a signature “basketweave” façade will align with the curved roadway. A glowing glass “lantern” structure anchors the northeast corner.

However, more important than the size and space amenities in the building are the opportunities it will provide for the next generation of health care professionals.

One of the greatest challenges facing the Commonwealth is the current and growing shortage of health care providers, including physicians, nurses, physician assistants, physical therapists, athletic trainers, medical laboratory scientists, speech language pathologists, audiologists, public health officials and other health care professionals. These shortages are especially prominent in rural areas. 

Addressing this health care workforce shortage is paramount to the mission of the University of Kentucky, and this facility will give the university an important means in solving this concerning issue.

The new Health Education Building will enable:

  • The College of Medicine to grow its medical education program in Lexington from approximately 138 students per year to 200 students per year giving it an overall enrollment of more than 1,000 medical students, making it one of the largest medical schools in the country.
  • It will also enable the College of Nursing to double enrollment by more than 350 students total per year in its traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Advanced BSN (ABSN) programs in order to address the statewide nursing shortage. 
  • In the College of Health Sciences, enrollment will be increased by 30% with more than 460 students across five professional programs including Physical Therapy, Physician Assistant Studies, Speech-Language Pathology, Athletic Training and Medical Laboratory Science, with additional new academic programs forthcoming.
  • The College of Public Health enrollment will increase by more than 30% by adding 350 students in its undergraduate and graduate programs.
  • The Center for Interprofessional and Community Health Education, which helps develop an effective, diverse and collaborative health workforce for Kentucky and beyond, will be able to impact 50% more students annually who will be prepared to provide quality team-based care as professionals.

Additionally, the conceptual design of the building will promote collaboration among the colleges and emphasize flexible, student-centric spaces.

As part of the vision of the Health Education Building, shared hallways, classrooms, educational labs and spaces will advance the exchange of ideas, knowledge and perspectives, leading to research studies, development of new treatment approaches and implementation of evidence-based practices that improve patient outcomes. For example, medical, health science and nursing students will be able to simulate real-life, patient-based experiences through the standardized patient program.

The $380 million project was authorized by the 2022 Kentucky General Assembly and the construction phase was approved by the UK Board of Trustees in June 2023.