Bishop Martin Amos slipped a vestment over his shoulders and stepped up to a microphone: "May the grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you always," he said, beginning a prayer.

Amos, the head of the Catholic Diocese of Davenport, was on hand Thursday with more than 100 others for the official blessing and dedication of an expansion to the St. Ambrose University Center for Health Science Education at Genesis in Davenport.

The spiritual aspect of the ceremony was unusual for a ribbon-cutting event conducted by the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce. Chamber representative Kristin Glass introduced herself as a St. Ambrose graduate and noted that the university has helped add some 3,500 jobs to the local economy in the past three years.

"We are preparing highly qualified care professionals to the community," agreed Sister Joan Lescinski, the college president and host of the ceremony.

The state-of-the-art addition completes the $11.5 million structure, located at the intersection of Marquette Street and Lombard Avenue. It also adds a new program: Master of Physician Assistant Studies.

Lescinski said the physician assistant curriculum was added in response to a study on what type of health careers would most benefit the community. Research showed that physician assistants, or PAs, could be educated at St. Ambrose and hired in medical offices around the Quad-Cities.

"We heard, 'As soon as you graduate them, we will hire them,' " Lescinski said.

The 13,000-square-foot addition itself cost $3.5 million and includes a clinical skills lab and exam suite that simulates medical office practice settings, as well as emergency and trauma care.

The space also has a 78-seat lecture hall equipped with technology for distance educational learning. The new PA program is the only one in the Quad-City region and is one of 181 such programs in the United States.

"Let peace abide in this building," Bishop Amos said, adding that he hopes it also fosters grace in the university's students and the ability for them to put into practice the skills they have been taught.

Jordan Voigt, administrator of Genesis Medical Center, represented the health system at the event. Genesis hires a number of speech pathologists, physical therapists and others who are educated in St. Ambrose programs, he told the crowd.

"Thank you for this partnership," he added. "We are very excited about the physician assistants program."