U of M Proposing New Academic Health Center Building in Duluth Medical District

The University is asking the state legislature for $12 million to start designing the standalone building close to both Essentia and St. Luke's Hospitals.

DULUTH, Minn.- A new University of Minnesota academic health center could be a part of the skyline of Duluth’s medical district, with legislative approval being the green light for design work to start this summer.

“Duluth has always provided really great healthcare and the challenges that exist now to keep people in their community to be served really that’s one of the connections we want to be a part of,” said Myron Frans, Senior Vice President of Finance and Operations for the U of M.

The University is asking the state legislature for $12 million to start designing the standalone building close to both Essentia and St. Luke’s Hospitals.

No location has been identified publicly yet.

Mayor Emily Larson said she doesn’t anticipate the city having to invest any money in this project.

“It is proof that there is an appetite for big investment in the City of Duluth it is proof that we are leaders for healthcare and technology and innovation and to me it is proof that people want to be here,” the Mayor said.

Larson hopes it keeps more medical students studying and practicing locally. “It’s a shame that we’ve been sending people for part of their education into the medical school other places.”

“We have the need, we have the capacity to do that and we know that when people graduate from here they are more apt to stay and chose to build out their healthcare and their professional life right here in Duluth,” she said.

The University hopes it can also expand access to care to underrepresented communities.

“It’s also we view it as a gateway to Greater Minnesota and to some of the indigenous communities that have been underserved in the area so it really it serves a lot of purposes,” said Frans.

The building is planned to house UMD’S medical and pharmacy programs.

According to Frans, connecting students and faculty with physicians and staff at both hospitals will be invaluable in preparing students for the ever-changing field of healthcare. “What a unique opportunity for us to engage collaboration in the earlier years of a student’s medicine or pharmacy degree program.”

One focus for the University is how to refine and expand access to telehealth in Duluth and in the region.

“We’ve learned so much in a tough way during the pandemic but we’ve learned a lot and part of that is there are opportunities to help increase and expand healthcare through telehealth,” he said.

The facility will also be a hub for medical and pharmacy research and studies. “It provides I think even a greater access and opportunity for members of the community to participate and might be different trials, drug trials,” said Frans.

If approved by the legislature, building design could begin this summer.

The proposal is part of the University’s $935.6 million dollar state capital request for the 2022 session.

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