A critical element often overlooked in health-care reform is development of a health-care workforce. The upcoming expansion of health insurance means that many more Americans needing medical help will finally be able to get it, creating a pressing need for licensed and degreed professionals.

It’s a dilemma that neither Genesis Health System nor St. Ambrose University could resolve alone.

Their collaboration to help solve the dilemma will be unveiled at a ribbon cutting Thursday at St. Ambrose’s new, 40,000-square-foot Health Sciences Building on Genesis West campus at Marquette and Lombard streets. The $11.5 million building includes classrooms that look like hospital wards with the same equipment these students will be using on the job.

 The new building improves and increases the university’s occupational and physical therapy programs and its bachelor’s in nursing program, providing a reliable supply of professionals for Quad-City hospitals and medical firms.

As importantly, it provides a lucrative career path for Quad-Citians ready to enter the field, but unable to attend the University of Iowa or other out-of-town bachelor degree PT and nursing programs.

St. Ambrose and Genesis, with help from federal grants, have created a setting where students can get hands-on experience in classrooms that replicate the hospital wards where they’ll be working. The proximity to Genesis assures internships and access to practicing professionals as part of their coursework.

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U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley is scheduled to join Genesis and

St. Ambrose leaders for a ribbon cutting to celebrate this timely collaboration. Regular readers know that we’re collaborative junkies; our fragmented Quad-Cities can only compete with similarly sized metro areas when our cities, counties, schools, businesses and others work together.

St. Ambrose and Genesis have taken collaboration to a new level at precisely the right time. This partnership will improve medical services far beyond this specific school and hospital by educating medical professionals for the entire region, and — we hope — providing opportunities for younger Quad-Citians to find the education and career they need without traveling far from home.