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August 01, 2023 | Shannon Smith

Roane State breaks ground on Knox Regional Health Science Education Center

The project’s preliminary timeline has the center set to open for Roane State and TCAT students in the fall of 2025.

Roane State Community College and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) Knoxville broke ground on the new Knox Regional Health Science Education Center during a joint celebration Tuesday.

The 130,000-square-foot facility will be located on the newly named Covenant Health Campus at 9575 Sherrill Boulevard in Knoxville. It will replace Roane State’s current Knox County Center for Health Sciences on Hayfield Road. Construction is now set to begin later this summer on the plot of land donated by Covenant Health.

“It has taken a tremendous amount of effort, time, and collaboration to get us to this groundbreaking,” Roane State President Chris Whaley said to the crowd. “So many people have helped us along the way and this campus would not be here without each one of you. We are also excited to grow our partnership with TCAT Knoxville as we pursue our mutual mission of educating the healthcare workforce of tomorrow.”

Several healthcare and community leaders were present for the event, including Tennessee Lt. Governor Randy McNally, State Senator Richard Briggs, and Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon. During the press conference, the Tennessee Board of Regents also presented Covenant Health with a philanthropy award for their donation of land to build the center.

A rendering of the future center’s courtyard.

“Roane State and TCAT have meant so much to Covenant over the years. In fact, if you look at Covenant today, over 2,000 of our employees have gone to those colleges, so it makes a huge part of our workforce,” said Jim VanderSteeg, President and CEO of Covenant Health. “Covenant wants to be a trusted and valued health partner for the community and those that we serve and in order to do so we’ve got to have not only talented health care workers, we’ve got to have compassionate workers and be able to deploy them throughout the region.”

Current Roane State programs to be housed in the new center include nursing, EMS, polysomnography, and respiratory therapy, with the college planning to add new programs such as cardiovascular technology, healthcare administration, and public health. TCAT Knoxville’s health science programs will be offered under the same roof, including dental assisting, phlebotomy, and surgical technology.

“We always talk about students being first and we know how higher education transforms lives,” said Whaley. “Students who have access to higher education, particularly to programs that lead to high-paying jobs, are critical for the well-being of the rest of us who go to doctors, offices, and hospitals. So this is transformative to all those students who walk through these doors, and who will exit employed at a skilled, high-paying job. They’ll make a difference in their community.”

The first level of the new building will accommodate spaces shared by Roane State and TCAT Knoxville, such as student services, continuing education, adjunct faculty offices, and a more than 10,000-square-foot simulation center.

“In this facility, we’re going to educate each year probably more than 8,000 students,” said Whaley. Specifically, he said Roane Stat will more than double the size of its nursing program, helping with the continuing nursing shortage.

The simulation center will include an emergency department, ambulance bay, and electronic medical record workstation as well as operating, ICU, medication, and decontamination rooms. Multipurpose rooms that can be set up as an apartment, exam room, or surgical suite will help immerse students in real-world scenarios that elevate their training and sharpen their skills.

“Roane State Foundation board members and many additional supporters have been at the forefront of communicating the important role this new facility will play in the life of the college, and most importantly, the students and community we serve,” said Roane State Foundation Executive Director Scott Niermann. “We are currently in the major gifts stage of campaign fundraising, meeting with area leaders, philanthropists, and friends of Roane State to share more information about this project and how they might invest in this worthy cause. We welcome the support of citizens across the region who value a healthy, thriving community.”

Interested supporters can learn more about getting involved with the fundraising effort or making a contribution at

The project’s preliminary timeline has the Knox Regional Health Science Education Center set to open for students in the fall of 2025.

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