Owensboro Health has named former Kentucky Wesleyan College President Bart Darrell the new Vice President of the Commonwealth West Healthcare Workforce Innovation Center. The Innovation Center will offer classes and programs in a wide range of healthcare career fields, including nursing, respiratory, radiology, behavioral health, and community health.
“Together, these announcements are a major victory for Owensboro Health, our coalition partners, and all of western Kentucky,” said Owensboro Health President and CEO Mark Marsh. “I truly believe this project could change the future of healthcare in our region, and we are ready to get started.”
Owensboro Health is part of a larger coalition that will manage and operate the Innovation Center. The coalition includes nine area colleges and universities: Brescia University, Elizabethtown Community College, Henderson Community College, Hopkinsville Community College, Kentucky Wesleyan College, Madisonville Community College, Owensboro Community and Technical College, Western Kentucky University (Owensboro and Bowling Green), and University of Louisville School of Nursing-Owensboro.
The facility will provide hands-on learning experiences and simulate “real-world” healthcare environments, such as an operating room or a patient exam room. It will be located at the current Owensboro Health Business Center on Frederica Street, with renovations to start later this summer.
Earlier this year, the Kentucky General Assembly approved $38 million to establish the center and create a curriculum. The legislation was sponsored by State Representative Suzanne Miles in March.
Steve Johnson, vice president of government and community affairs, said Kentucky will face a nursing shortage of 16,000 in just 2 years.
“The Innovation Center is an exciting step that will spark interest in healthcare careers and help our region meet tomorrow’s workforce challenges,” he said.
Darrell, an attorney and co-managing partner with Foreman Watson Holtrey, LLC, has a long track record of experience in the educational sector. He served as president of KWC from 2014 to 2019 and helped the college achieve a No. 2 state ranking in 2018. During Darrell’s tenure, he worked with the University of Louisville’s Brandeis School of Law to create a “3 + 3” joint bachelor/law degree program partnership between the two institutions. He also oversaw the agreement for a “3+3” joint bachelor/doctoral degree between Kentucky Wesleyan College and the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy.
He has also represented many school systems and served as General Counsel for one of the state’s largest districts.
“With his background in education and community service, Bart is the perfect fit to lead this project,” Marsh said. “We are proud to welcome him to Owensboro Health.”