BY ELIO GUGLIOTTI | REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN WATERBURY
Photos by JCJ Architecture
While Waterbury remains known as the Brass City because of its legacy of brass manufacturers, today one of the most dominant industries in the city and the region is health care.
Two of the largest, nongovernmental employers in the city are Saint Mary’s Hospital and Waterbury Hospital, and according to the 2018 Town Profiles produced by the CT Data Collaborative for the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, there are more than 400 healthcare-related businesses just in Waterbury, Watertown, and Naugatuck.
So, the decision announced during a news conference on June 19 to bring a four-year degree program for Allied Health Services to the University of Connecticut’s Waterbury campus is a huge win for the city ! and the region. According to UConn, the Waterbury campus will establish a bachelor’s degree program by the fall of 2020.
The school will develop onsite and online classes, expand some existing core science requirements to both semesters, and add several core and elective classes that focus on specifics of allied health sciences.
Creating a four-year program that can be started and completed at UConn’s downtown Waterbury campus is important for students in the region who can’t commute to the main campus in Storrs, or who can’t afford to live on campus there. It also offers a tremendous opportunity for students who graduate from Naugatuck Valley Community College with an associate degree. UConn officials said the school will collaborate with NVCC so students can transfer to UConn Waterbury to complete the final two years for a bachelor’s degree.
“UConn Waterbury is deeply engaged with the region, and we are very excited to add a bachelor’s degree in Allied Health,” said William J. Pizzuto, UConn Waterbury’s campus director and immediate past chairman of the board for the Waterbury Regional Chamber. “The entire degree can be completed right here at the Waterbury campus, and our students can take their skills back into the community at large. This new degree will help us prepare students for steady, rewarding careers while meeting the needs of our area and our state.”
Steven Schneider, M.D., president of Saint Mary’s Hospital, agreed, calling the announcement “one of the most exciting developments for downtown and for Saint Mary! ’s Hospital in years.” He added that he would be thrilled to hire graduates of the program.
“I have found, over many years in hospital management at both hospitals in Waterbury, that homegrown Waterbury citizens become our most loyal and consistent employees once they begin their careers in their hometown.” Peter Adamo, president of Waterbury Hospital, is also enthusiastic about the new program.
“The Allied Health Sciences Program is an important pipeline for talent, and we are grateful to have such offerings nearby at both UConn and Naugatuck Valley Community College,” he said. “This new educational opportunity is not just important to the hospital, but also to the health of our community because it will bring more people and more commerce to the city, which inevitably helps to revitalize the Greater Waterbury region.”
Christine Bianchi, chief development officer for Stay-Well Health Center, said her organization applauds UConn for creating the program. “In order for StayWell to improve the health of our community one patient at a time, we need to have the skilled workforce to do so,” Bianchi said. “This new UConn program increases the capacity of the entire community to succeed economically and in attaining improved health outcomes.”
Gary Steck, CEO of Wellmore Behavioral Health and a member of the Chamber’s Health Care Council Board of Directors said he was “heartened and excited” to learn of plans for the program. Steck is a UConn alum and called his experience at UConn Waterbury “formative.”
“Many of my classmates, like me, went on to achieve allied health credentials and would have gladly completed their studies in Waterbury if this had been available at the time,” Steck said. “Now, this new initiative offers the promise of addressing pressing local workforce needs. We certainly hope to partner with internships and build the relationship necessary to recruit future graduates to help meet the health care needs of Greater Waterbury.”
The program does help meet the region’s future workforce and health care needs, and that’s why Mayor Neil O’Leary and Sen. Joan Hartley, D-Waterbury, worked so hard on behalf of UConn Waterbury to make it possible. It’s also why the chamber included bringing the four-year program to the city a priority in our 2019 Legislative & Regional Agenda.
To see it become reality is rewarding and, paired with the successful development of housing for students downtown by Joe Gramando and Louis Forster of Green Hub Development, it stands as a reminder of the economic development value the UConn campus brings to downtown Waterbury.
Lynn Ward is president and CEO of the Waterbury Regional Chamber. Contact her at 203-757-0701, ext. 310 or lward@ waterburychamber.com.