ON THE MOVE
New facilities, reimagined spaces fuel UF Health’s regional ambitions
As a new decade dawns, UF Health is poised to expand its reach into the communities it serves, both near and far.
From an audacious decision to turn former retail space at the Oaks Mall, the region’s premier shopping destination, into a state-of-the-art medical services center to opening a new center for patients with autism, expanding services for those dealing with substance abuse issues and preparing to open a new guest house for inpatients and relatives of patients at its hospitals, UF Health is on the move in Gainesville.
But the ambitions extend far beyond Alachua County. UF Health recently acquired two hospitals in Central Florida, announced plans to build a third and laid the foundation of a new research and clinical center in The Villages®,Florida’s fastestgrowing community.
This impressive growth is part of a determination to serve the needs of the community and expand the latest health care advances further into the region, said David R. Nelson, M.D., senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health.
“UF Health has become synonymous with highly regarded, patient-centered care,’’ Nelson said. “In an ever-changing health care landscape, it is a true privilege to build on our role as the region’s premier provider of medical expertise and specialties.”
UF Health The Oaks
Earlier this year, UF Health The Oaks opened in the former Sears store in the Oaks Mall on West Newberry Road. The 139,000-square-foot building now comprises ophthalmology, otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat, including allergy) and audiology services provided by UF Health, as well as the UF Health Surgical Center – The Oaks. The 14-month project completely reimagined the space with patient-focused features and welcoming, custom-designed artwork.
“The mall, located close to Interstate 75, is an excellent site for several reasons,” said Ed Jimenez, CEO of UF Health Shands.
“The Oaks Mall delivers a location that is ideal for our patients and gives them convenient access to practices with exceptional national reputations. We are proud to be among the growing number of innovative health care systems that are bringing medicine to malls,” Jimenez said.
UF Health The Oaks includes 87 exam rooms, 15 procedure rooms including laser rooms, eight treatment rooms and 10 sound booths across the three practices, and visitors will have more than 500 parking spaces and easy access to shopping and dining. Patients can also shop for eyeglasses, contact lenses and hearing aids at two stores adjacent to the practices.
Both indoor and outdoor spaces are augmented with curated nature-themed art that includes murals, stunning photographs and unique mobiles.
Small but thoughtful changes enhance the patient experience: Examination rooms are grouped in “pods” of six to 12 by medical specialty, giving patients easy access within a large space. Smaller waiting areas abound, meaning patients can stay close to their exam room during procedures such as eye dilation.
The ophthalmology and otolaryngology practices draw patients from throughout the state and region. Physicians from these practices perform many procedures on-site in the new UF Health Surgical Center – The Oaks, a $24 million, 23,500-squarefoot radiology and outpatient surgery center.
The added space also provides other opportunities. Many ear, nose and throat patients also need hearing tests, and the location provides space to integrate those services. Likewise, UF Health patients — even those who aren’t ophthalmology or otolaryngology patients — will now have a convenient place to have blood drawn for lab tests.
The new otolaryngology practice brings together all practitioners for the cochlear implant program, which uses an electrical stimulation to bring help patients with significant hearing loss who cannot benefit from hearing aids. Its radiology and lab services offer a one-stop destination for ear, nose and throat care. The ear, nose and throat practice has 21 examination rooms and seven procedure rooms. In audiology, there are 13 treatment rooms and 11 booths for hearing tests.
In ophthalmology, UF Health has the only practice in the region that covers every subspecialty, including corneal transplants, pediatric ophthalmology, refractive surgery and low-vision services. It also is the only practice in the region to perform novel procedures such as “bionic eye” retinal implants, artificial corneas and miniature telescopes to improve vision loss caused by macular degeneration. The practice has 66 examination rooms and four procedure rooms.
Innovation at UF Health The Oaks goes beyond medicine and patient care. The space is heated and cooled with variable refrigerant flow, a technology that officials said should reduce energy consumption by more than half compared with traditional methods.
The mall site allows the three practices to expand while also benefiting other UF Health practices. About 110 employees in the UF Health ophthalmology and ear nose and throat practices have moved to the new space. Space at the UF Health Medical Plaza on Southwest Archer Road formerly occupied by ophthalmology will be used to expand other medical services.
UF Health Center for Autism and Neurodevelopment
The UF Health Center for Autism and Neurodevelopment opened in February as a multidisciplinary, collaborative facility that will provide specialized care and resources to children and adults with neurodevelopmental disorders and their families.
Known as UF Health CAN, the 15,000-square-foot center near UF Health’s Springhill medical complex at 4101 NW 89th Blvd. in Gainesville features two full-time patient navigators to help families coordinate multiple aspects of care both on- and off-site with expert clinicians, including physicians, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, physical therapists and psychologists.
The facility has a gym with a rock-climbing wall and state-of-the-art equipment for occupational, speech and physical therapy; rooms for clinical/behavioral intervention research; clinical space for telemedicine; and new offices for outreach, advocacy and support services.
UF Health Florida Recovery Center
To address the growing public health threat of substance use disorders, UF Health has expanded the UF Health Florida Recovery Center. The 9,000-square-foot renovated building on Southwest 13th Street provides more space for patient care, group activities and faculty workspaces.
Renovated at a cost of more than $13 million, the FRC provides multidisciplinary treatments that are supported by advanced research from faculty and staff at the Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute of the University of Florida.
Hotel ELEO at the University of Florida
UF Health Shands has opened a 173-room hotel that provides convenient, high-quality accommodations for visiting outpatients, relatives of hospitalized patients and other guests. Construction was recently completed on the six-story, 124,000-square-foot facility at the former Rush Lake Motel site at 1514 SW 14th St.
The hotel is within walking distance or shuttle service of all nearby UF Health hospitals. The facility’s suites feature a private bedroom, bathroom and seating/lounging area with a contemporary design. As is common with hospital campus-based accommodations, it is independently operated and managed.
Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases at UF Health
In mid-2019, UF Health unveiled this $9 million stateof- the-art building offering world-class clinical care and research. Made possible by generous support from donors including the Lauren and Lee Fixel Family Foundation and Tyler’s Hope for a Dystonia Cure, the institute builds upon the Fixel family’s $20 million gift to UF and UF Health.
The 24,700-square-foot building on Williston Road expands upon the interdisciplinary service and science hub specialty care model started in 2011 as the UF Health Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration.
Renovated unit for burn victims
UF Health has completed its $30 million renovation of its unit for patients requiring care for burn injuries, severe skin disorders, specialized treatment after reconstructive surgery and difficult or chronic wounds. The 34,000-square-foot Unit 2425 has 27 rooms, including space for bariatric patients, four hydrotherapy beds and respiratory therapy areas.
UF Health The Oaks,
WHERE ART MEETS MEDICINE
By Doug Bennett
Amid the new technology and clinical spaces, patients and visitors to UF Health The Oaks will also find an abundance of art.
It starts outside, where patients are greeted by a towering glass panel mural — the first of its kind at a UF Health facility — that features 11 large, highly detailed images of native plants, animals and natural features.
Inside, large, hand-shaped mobiles — meant to symbolize the healing hands of health care workers — turn slowly above the main concourse. Within the practices, hundreds of photographs taken by UF Health employees line the walls, and pieces by professional artists enrich waiting rooms.
“The arts are a part of everything we do at UF Health and we wanted them here at The Oaks to be special,’’ said Tina Mullen, M.F.A., director of the UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine program.
Designing the aesthetics for such a large, repurposed space was unprecedented for UF Health. Ultimately, the art includes literal and symbolic representations of the practices’ missions and the region’s natural features.
“Nature is the undercurrent of many decisions that are made in health care,’’ Mullen said. “We also know that our patients are deeply embedded in the natural experiences of North Central Florida. We wanted the space to reflect that.”
A focal point in the concourse is a photograph of an oak tree on Kanapaha Prairie by Gainesville-based conservation photographer Mac Stone. The image — 15 feet long and 8 feet high — is printed on multidepth aluminum panels and augmented with museum-quality lighting.
“It has a luminosity to it that will make it like a beacon,” said Mullen.