Palm Coast - Enter the University of North Florida's MedNexus - with Palm Coast now at center stage to make history.

MedNexus is designed to be the nation's first comprehensive, university-based medical and healthcare nexus to educate and train medical professionals in an expansive set of disciplines including nursing, rehabilitation, genetic and addiction counseling, nutrition, sciences, engineering, analytics, psychology, computing and philosophy. UNF's first connection outside of Jacksonville will be Palm Coast.

"MedNexus will have a major transformative impact on Palm Coast and allow us to steer the city toward a sustainable future," said Mayor Milissa Holland. "It not only represents opportunity, but also a career pipeline for students into the medical field and we're proud to have that next generation of health care professionals be educated and trained here in our City."

Through MedNexus, academic disciplines, health care providers, municipalities and academic institutions all come together to create innovative solutions to current and future health care problems. Following a recent ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating it's entry into the city, specifically Town Center, Palm Coast is poised to embark on a new chapter in its story.

This innovative partnership brings together regional stakeholders to advance students from Flagler County Schools, to Daytona State College, to UNF, and AdventHealth. These healthcare professionals are projected to live and work locally or regionally contributing to the future of the community.

"Flagler Schools is excited to watch the progression of the UNF MedNexus program and is looking forward to a partnership between our District and the various stakeholders involved," said Supt. Cathy Mittelstadt. "This will provide a unique opportunity for our students to continue in programs that they are exposed to in all elementary, middle, and high schools."

Twenty-three percent of Florida's projected job growth between 2016 and 2024 accounts for healthcare, and training the next generation of healthcare professionals is one way to advance Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' explicit goal for Florida to be number one in the nation in workforce readiness by 2030.

"The demand for healthcare professionals of all kinds increases every year throughout our country and, especially, here in Florida. The UNF MedNexus initiative will help address the critical shortage of healthcare professionals that we are experiencing," said Dr. Curt Lox, UNF Brooks College of Health dean. "We are excited about the expansion of our nursing program into the Palm Coast region and hope that this is just the first program of many that we can bring to this area in the coming years. This will positively impact the number of high-demand healthcare workers and medical professionals who are prepared to enter the workforce and serve our region."

For example, in the Florida Center for Nursing's 2019 Annual Report that addresses the nurse workforce issues for the health of Florida, it states "Florida is experiencing a critical shortage of registered and licensed practical nurses which is expected to worsen as demand increases" and that "Florida's elected and appointed leadership should consider all available options to improve the production of a viable, quality nurse workforce." MedNexus fulfills the critical need for a skilled and educated health care workforce, and in various medical field careers that have an average annual salary of $76,000.

With Palm Coast being the first educational connection as part of a greater medical ecosystem, it also represents a hub and spoke approach to healthcare education and outreach - partnering with local medical centers connecting healthcare providers with university students, faculty and researchers. Through public-private partnerships, UNF MedNexus will offer online courses beginning January 2021 and hold the first nursing cohort in Palm Coast in fall 2021.

UNF MedNexus support includes a financial commitment from the City of Palm Coast, a new nursing simulation lab from AdventHealth, and the building of a teaching facility from Allete Energy, through Douglas Properties.

"Allete Inc. and Douglas Property & Development are honored to be a part of the University of North Florida's MedNexus entry into Palm Coast," said Jeff Douglas, of Douglas Property and Development. "This will place our community at the forefront of the Education to Immediate Employment movement that will finally allow our community to retain its investment in our youth. Palm Coast will lead the nation in this space that is creating substantial positive social and tax revenue for its citizenry. The first phase of medical education and office will be delivered in late 2021 and anchor the Entertainment District. This will join two new single family, residential neighborhoods that will break ground later this year and in early 2021. A big thank you to City and state leadership for moving the dream of Town Center into a reality that is creating better lives for all."

According to the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB), higher education institutions drive economic development. For example, the organization said these schools make vital contributions to the economy as employers, investors, business incubators, and industry partners. The hope is for this kind of activity to promote economic growth.

"Since the announcement of MedNexus last year, we have experienced an uptick in interest in Town Center development and continued strong growth in the City as a whole," said City of Palm Coast Chief Development Officer Jason DeLorenzo. In the past year, three residential projects are in review and three new commercial projects are in the works in Town Center.

This project is also significant because it marks the first initiative that governments throughout Flagler County have come together to actively support - including Palm Coast, Flagler County, Flagler County Schools, Beverly Beach, Bunnell, Flagler Beach, and Marineland.

For more information about UNF MedNexus, visit www.palmcoastgov.com/mednex.