Radford University announces intent to merge with Roanoke's Jefferson College of Health Sciences

Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill joined officials from Carilion Clinic and Jefferson College of Health Sciences (JCHS) on Jan. 18 to announce the potential merger of JCHS into the Radford University family of colleges and departments.

JCHS, owned and operated by Carilion Clinic, has 35 years of history as an accredited health care education institution and has grown from 200 to about 1,150 students on the undergraduate and graduate levels. Jefferson College, with a full-time faculty of 70, is a top regional producer of nursing and allied health professionals that ranks among the top 10 in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“Radford University and Jefferson College have a robust history of collaboration and we intend to build upon that heritage to serve students, faculty, staff, alumni and communities of both institutions while enhancing the health and economic well-being of the region and the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said President Hemphill.

The merger process is expected to take 18 to 24 months. Radford University, Jefferson College and Carilion Clinic officials will work closely during this time to develop the processes and procedures that will facilitate the integration.  

“Both schools are approaching this potential merger from positions of institutional excellence and financial strength,” said JCHS President Dr. Nathaniel L. Bishop ‘88. “We believe that together, we can enhance the quality of health care education and research better than we could individually.”

Hemphill announced the intent to merger in an email to the campus, and that the exploration of how the institutions can successfully integrate to benefit students, faculty, staff, alumni, supporters and communities across the Commonwealth would begin immediately.

L-R: Jefferson College of Health Sciences President Nathaniel Bishop, Executive Vice President of Carilion Clinic Jeanne Armentrout and Radford University President Brian Hemphill.

L-R: Jefferson College of Health Sciences President Nathaniel Bishop, Executive Vice President of Carilion Clinic Jeanne Armentrout and Radford University President Brian Hemphill.

The transition process will address issues such as academic programs, accreditation, student services, human resources and finance. Teams from both institutions will guide the potential merger’s processes and procedures.

“As we work carefully during the next several months to determine the best structure, we will be diligent in our efforts to keep our campus communities informed about the process,” Hemphill said.

Radford University intends to welcome Jefferson College primarily into its Waldron College of Health and Human Services (WCHHS). Development of the partnership will draw from Carilion Clinic’s experience, working with Virginia Tech to form a public-private partnership, the Virginia Tech Carilion School and Medicine and Research Institute.

“Carilion Clinic is proud to have nurtured Jefferson’s growth, as it established a reputation for developing ethical, knowledgeable, competent and caring health care professionals,” said Nancy Howell Agee, president and CEO of Carilion Clinic. “Joining the Radford University family is a wonderful opportunity for Jefferson College. And now is the right time as the vision for a health sciences and technology campus in Roanoke comes to life. Partnerships among leading academic institutions strengthen our region as a destination for health education and research, and ultimately drive economic development.”

During meetings with the WCHHS faculty and staff, Interim Provost Kenna Colley pointed out that the potential merger aligns with Radford’s recently published strategic plan.

“We have an opportunity to dramatically integrate academic excellence, research, economic development, community partnerships and student success – key strategic tenets of the plan.

WCHHS Dean Kenneth Cox characterized the opportunity as a “game changer” for Waldron College.

“Both institutions come from positions of strength, not weakness. JCHS has excellent academic programs and their constellation of programs will become another bright part of the WCHHS and Radford University,” Cox said. “The intent to merge will augment our college community of clinician/scholars who educate competent and caring health care professionals.”

At a daylong series of meetings, Hemphill, Bishop, Colley and Cox briefed JCHS and Radford faculty and staff about the proposed merger and fielded questions about its implications, objectives and planning.

“This will be transformative on many levels,” said President Hemphill. “In the spirit of shared governance, we will be transparent in what we do.”

At a gathering of Radford faculty in Roanoke, Professor of Social Work Deneen Evans reacted enthusiastically, saying, “This is an exciting initiative in terms of crystallizing Radford’s identity and expanding our service to the community.”

At a meeting in Radford between President Hemphill, Interim Provost Colley and Dean Cox and on-campus Waldron College faculty, Brent Harper, chair of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, said, “This can be an excellent opportunity to increase the Radford footprint at the undergraduate and graduate levels that stimulates authentic interdisciplinary growth and productivity in Roanoke.”

Radford and JCHS have a history of productive collaboration, including:

  • A partnership formed to transition the nursing program to Radford University when the Roanoke Memorial Hospital School of Nursing closed in 1988. The partnership increased the size of Radford’s nursing program and established Radford University’s first presence in Roanoke.
  • Development of the Virginia Intercollegiate Anatomy Lab, housed at Jefferson College, by Radford University, JCHS and the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine in 2015. 
  • Radford’s newly-expanded Clinical Simulation Center in the Roanoke Higher Education is used by students from both Radford and JCHS as well as Patrick Henry Community College.
  • Establishment of Radford University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program and its integration into the JCHS Roanoke campus in 2011.
  • Employment by Carilion Clinic of hundreds of Radford University graduates, including more than 350 Radford University nursing graduates – 40 of whom were hired in 2016 alone.
  • Engagement of more than 500 Radford University students who participated in job shadowing, clinical rotations or internships with Carilion Clinic from 2016 to 2017.
  • Carilion Clinic also provides student health services to Radford University since 1999 and it provides event coverage, athletic training and sports clinics to Radford University Athletics.

“At Radford University, we have experience providing quality academic programs from two locations. We can now expand those programs and faculty to better serve students and the health care needs of the citizens in the New River and Roanoke valleys and beyond,” said Hemphill. “Both the Radford and JCHS families’ student-focused service and quality will not only continue, but grow.”

Hemphill added that he expects the merger will lead to enhanced educational opportunities, increased access to ongoing research and an atmosphere conducive to expansion as they meet the growing need for health care professionals in Virginia.

To learn more, go to: http://www.radford.edu/content/JCHS-RU-merger/.

Jan 22, 2018
Don Bowman