WMU News

NIH grant funds Health and Human Services research labs

Sept. 21, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, has approved a $1.2 million grant to help pay for several research laboratories as part of a new building for the Western Michigan University College of Health and Human Services.

The grant, announced during the Sept. 20 WMU Board of Trustees meeting, recognizes the University's growing national reputation as a leading research institution. NIH reviewers of the grant proposal cited WMU's "strong institutional commitment, benefits to investigators with a substantial number of public health service-sponsored research projects and an environment conducive to current and future integrated and collaborative research activities," as well as detailed construction plans for the new labs and building.

Competition for these types of grants is keen, University officials say, and approval of the WMU funding proposal is further evidence of the caliber of work going on at WMU.

"This grant is really recognition of the excellent research being done by faculty in the College of Health and Human Services," says Dr. Janet Pisaneschi, college dean. "An award of this magnitude, received over such extraordinary national competitors is gratifying, to be sure."

The grant will allow the college to complete research laboratories and office space totaling nearly 20,000 square feet in the college's new building on Oakland Drive. The 195,000-square-

foot building will house all of the college's academic programs in one central location at a projected total cost of $48.2 million. The state has agreed to pay 75 percent of the project's cost, while the University is raising its 25 percent share of matching funds.

The peer-reviewed grant award recognized the University and college's commitment to research and carrying out the college's academic mission in the health sciences. "The faculty is committed

to excellence in research, training future generations of biomedical and allied health scholars and providing a scientifically competent biomedical workforce to serve the health care and rehabilitation needs of Kalamazoo, Mich., and the rural areas of Southwest Michigan," the award summary states.

The grant will be used to complete the building's fourth floor, which will house research initiatives and research training in sensory, motor and communication sciences. Research will be aimed at improving the quality of life and increasing equitable access to healthy futures for area residents, including those with disabilities. The labs will replace the college's existing, inadequate research spaces and greatly enhance scholarly interaction, productivity and collaboration.

The majority of the research will be conducted by faculty primarily in the departments of speech pathology and audiology and blindness and low vision studies. The award summary recognized that the "need for new facilities is well justified. The current space available for faculty members is highly inadequate and lack of sound-proof structures causes significant hindrance in the on-going research projects."

The $1.2 million grant will pay 25 percent of the laboratories' total $4.8 million projected cost, and will play a significant role in helping the University secure its share of the funding for the new building.

"This takes us a step closer to our new building," Pisaneschi says. "We're making every effort to assure our dream comes true, and with the outstanding support we've received from President Floyd and our faculty, staff, alumni and friends, we realize that our momentum is unstoppable."

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 269 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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