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Dolphin Pointe is part of a strategic partnership between Jacksonville University and a group that will manage the adjacent health care facility to provide services to residents while giving students hands-on experience close to campus. A groundbreaki...
Jax Daily Record Thursday, Dec. 15, 201612:00 PM EST

Dolphin Pointe skilled nursing facility is boost for Jacksonville University and its push to renew Arlington

by: David Chapman

When students and their parents visit Jacksonville University to determine whether it’s the right place to spend formative learning years, typical questions emerge.

The prevailing ones: Why here? What can JU offer that other schools can’t?

For those looking to enter the health care field, the school for decades has had a solid reputation for nursing and orthodontics.

But Christine Sapienza will soon be able to simply point across campus to Dolphin Pointe as an experience distinct to the school.

The 120-bed skilled nursing facility will be an opportunity for hands-on experience for students while providing a service to Arlington and Jacksonville residents as a whole.

The project is a partnership between JU and a group led by alumnus Greg Nelson, which owns the property the center will be built on and will manage day-to-day operations.

The facility adjacent to JU broke ground this morning, a project years in the making.

“It is the ultimate dedicated education partnership,” said Sapienza, dean of the school’s Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences.

It will continue JU’s pursuit to lead in areas beyond nursing and orthodontics, though, said school President Tim Cost.

Speech pathology, kinesiology, mental health counseling, occupational therapy — they’ve all been incorporated into the Applied Health Science program.

But JU wants to continue responding to the needs of the health care industry.

Dolphin Pointe will be a nexus for that continued effort.

Additional programs at the facility will be available early in students’ tenure at the university, as opposed to just being for juniors, seniors and graduate students like other schools might offer.

It’s an effort a couple of years in the making for JU, when Cost recruited Sapienza from the University of Florida.

Sapienza said she made the jump because she saw the vision of the school becoming a leader in the health care field.

She said JU is on par with most large universities for applied health sciences and could one day be comparable to Emory and Vanderbilt universities and their teaching hospitals.

“If we stay together long enough, I can see a college of medicine in Jacksonville,” Sapienza says of the working relationship with Cost.

In her time in Gainesville, Sapienza said UF had Oak Hammock, a retirement community the school sponsored to enhance learning. She said, however, it was miles away from the main campus.

Dolphin Pointe will be next door to JU.

Geoff Fraser, a partner in the Dolphin Pointe group, said the true visionary for the facility is Nelson.

The JU alumnus played basketball for the school and graduated in 1971. From there, he went on to run skilled nursing and assisted living facilities throughout the state along with one in Denver.

It’s not the first time Nelson pursued building a skilled nursing facility adjacent to campus. In 2011, he sought to do the same but needed approvals from City Council and the Florida Legislature. Council ended up withdrawing it.

As for what the facility will mean for the Arlington area, Cost said it will be a major part of the school’s efforts to help the beleaguered area and provide hundreds of jobs and infrastructure.

“This is a big additional incremental stake in the ground for Arlington,” said Cost.

Fraser said the facility will be a way for students to experience health care firsthand and train professionals in an area where there is a shortage.

It will be an experience JU can offer that other schools can’t.

And for college-seekers looking to make a career in health care, maybe make the difference when picking a school.

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