By Wendy Sarubbi | May 3, 2019 3:41 pm

Construction teams placed the final steel beam atop UCF Lake Nona Medical Center May 3 in a “topping-out” ceremony for a new hospital one worker called a “place of healing and wellness.”

Slated to open by the end of 2020, the hospital is a joint venture between UCF and HCA Healthcare that will provide care to the growing Lake Nona community while serving as a clinical research center and learning environment for medical students, residents and fellows.

Wendy Brandon, CEO of the new hospital, said the topping-out ceremony “marks a bright future for physicians, students and Central Florida residents. What you see today are the bones of our new hospital – Central Florida’s first teaching hospital.”

This week, construction workers placed the final 20-foot beam in the atrium of the UCF College of Medicine so faculty, staff and students could sign it and write on it their well-wishes. The medical school covered the beam’s top and sides in a matter of hours, requiring teams to flip the structure to make room for more signatures.

Dr. Deborah German, vice president for health affairs and dean of the UCF College of Medicine, met with many of the 150 Layton Construction workers who were at the site for the ceremony. They wore black and gold t-shirts proclaiming, “BIG Things Are Happening – UCF Lake Nona Medical Center.” As she thanked them, Dr. German urged workers to sign the beam before it went up, “so we have your good work and your good name as part of the spirit of our hospital forever.”

The three-story hospital will open at 204,079 square feet with 64 beds and shelled space enabling expansion to 80 beds. It is authorized to grow to 500 beds without further state approval. At opening, the hospital will include a 20-bed Emergency Department open 24/7/365, four operating rooms, six delivery suites, cardiac catheterization lab, comprehensive imaging and laboratory services, a medical office building and a destination café. The hospital is located on 25 acres of UCF land next door to the UCF College of Medicine and adjacent to the new UCF Lake Nona Cancer Center being created at the former Sanford Burnham Prebys research facility.

“This site is really a kind of sacred ground,” Dr. German said. “It’s a place where we will heal, treat and cure. Where we will care for each other. That is truly a noble calling. And because we are a teaching hospital, as we do that work, we’ll also be training young people to do the same – to care for others. At the same time, we’ll be inspiring scientific discovery – advancing medical research to find tomorrow’s treatments and cures.”

A teaching hospital has always been part of the medical school’s dream for a Medical City in Lake Nona that is a nationally known destination for education, research and patient care. The hospital is the foundation of UCF’s new Academic Health Sciences Center, which brings together all of the university’s health-related programs for more interprofessional education, research and patient care.

As dreams go, the hospital is also special for John Thomas, Layton’s senior project manager, who is leading the construction efforts. UCF Lake Nona Medical Center is the sixth hospital he’s built from the ground up in the last eight years. But this one is special. He raised the highest beam for a hospital he called “a place of healing and wellness” just days before he and his wife have their first child – in Lake Nona.

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