“More Than Just a Building”: Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas breaks ground on new education center

On May 3, Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas (CHC/SEK) broke ground on a new medical education building, adjacent to their headquarters in Pittsburg, Kansas. 

Located on the original site of the Mt. Carmel Hospital and Mt. Carmel School of Nursing, CHC/SEK has grown from a handful of staff in 1997 to more than 600 employees across 13 clinics in the Southeast Kansas region. There is a considerable need for the comprehensive spectrum of care that CHC/SEK provides; their services range from family medicine and dental care to addiction and psychological treatment. CHC/SEK sees approximately 70,000 patients annually, regardless of their ability to pay.

“This is our opportunity to address the increasing shortage of healthcare professionals in Kansas.”
— Dr. Dan Minnis, DDS, Chairman of the Board, CHC/SEK

Driven by their mission of expanding access to quality healthcare, CHC/SEK has made strategic investments in partnerships and their facilities to become a learning destination for the area. As they continue to grow, CHC/SEK identified a need for a new education building to host cohorts of medical students who are participating in a rural residency program, in collaboration with the University of Kansas School of Medicine.

The John Parolo Education Center will serve as a compelling recruiting tool for bringing medical students to the area, with the ultimate goal of retaining students after graduation so that they establish permanent practices and continue providing care in Southeast Kansas. 

“This is more than just a building — it’s a mission… This is our opportunity to address the increasing shortage of healthcare professionals in Kansas while also inspiring all of our children to pursue the education they so desperately deserve.” — Dr. Dan Minnis, DDS, Chairman of the Board, CHC/SEK

“All the more critical, this facility is located in the poorest, most underserved region of Kansas,” — Jason Wesco, Executive Vice President, CHC/SEK

The building will become a central hub for the entire CHC/SEK main campus, bringing together students, faculty, staff, and providers. Through a mix of collaborative study and lounge spaces that are adjacent to the lecture hall and classrooms, students will find ample opportunities for multidisciplinary interaction. When students need a moment of respite or recharging, the building also provides dedicated study space and a lounge, which features a variety of comfortable seating. 

The primary entry will be a dynamic place where most interactions occur. Flexible glass panels can divide the lecture hall from the entry during class or open up the space during public events. Community education is a major component of CHC/SEK’s outreach; the new building will amplify their efforts and allow CHC/SEK to generate an interest in rural medicine within a younger generation.

“We’re doing this to provide a workforce for the region… The current terminology in the industry is to ‘establish a pipeline,’ and that’s very much the same as ‘growing your own.’ We want to find those grade school kids that have an interest in health care, and we want to nurture them.” — Reta Baker, Vice President of Clinical Education, CHC/SEK

CHC/SEK was the first recipient of a generous gift from the John U. Parolo Educational Trust. A lifelong advocate for the region, John Parolo amassed a significant personal fortune that he allocated in a trust for the purpose of providing engineering and healthcare education for the children of Southeast Kansas.

“Because of this facility, young men and women from Southeast Kansas and elsewhere will be able to pursue their educational dreams and their career dreams in a place called home.” — Senator Jerry Moran, R-Kan.