If you recognize this 1984 Wham! hit then you also recall girls in ties and blazers, guys in leisure suits, gas for $1.10 a gallon and seeing The Karate Kid at the Cineplex for $2.50 (at night!).
If you think music and fashion were suspect thirty years ago, consider SAS’ (then) novel idea to open an onsite health care center with—gasp!—a nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners were pretty new to North Carolina in 1984, but an increasingly recognized and popular health care provider across the country in a movement that swept from Colorado to the east coast. FNP Jimmie Butts was hired in April 1984 and spent the first 3 months planning for and outfitting the space allotted on the ground floor of Bldg. L and chatting up the 200 or so employees who came to Bldg. B for lunch. From that elementary market research came the soil and seed from which our current Health Care Center grew and flourished. Jimmie was an excellent grower of people and ideas. She worked her special magic for 10 years and retired in 1994.
Not just a blockbuster 1984 movie. The HCC immediately claimed the attention of everyone on campus. By 1990 we had outgrown our humble beginning in Bldg. L and moved into one-half of Bldg D (the original childcare building). We were ecstatic—3750 square feet! A real lab! Three exam rooms and a treatment room—all on one floor! We loved it and SAS employees loved us. By fall 1994 the HCC’s (then) 17 employees were planning our next big developmental leap—transition to a primary care center.
Where’s the beef?
This line from the Wendy’s classic 1984 TV commercial wasn’t just about hamburgers. The HCC did a campus wide employee survey in early 1995 (with paper and pencil no less) and asked, “If we build it (meaning, primary care), will you come?” We got a resounding—“maybe”. We had done too good a job convincing employees and families that they needed a community health care provider. They weren’t sure they—or we—were up to the switch! We saw this as a great opportunity to launch into a major staff retooling phase, brushing up on our primary care skills and designing a pediatric program unlike any other in the area. Based on T. Berry Brazelton’s Touchpoints model, our peds program was an immediate hit. In the survey we had also asked what other HCC services would be most valuable and (surprise!) physical therapy beat all other responses by a landslide. Enter Mike Mazzella PT.
In July 1995 we moved into the redesigned ground floor of the old Bldg C (now reborn down SAS Campus Drive as the Executive Briefing Center), doubling our space to 15,000 from the 7,500 we had eventually taken over in Bldg. D. We added PT several days a week in September and then on February 1, 1996 we began our new life as a primary care center.
What’s love got to do with it?
Apparently everything (thanks Tina Turner). We were like the head cheerleader, high school quarterback, and homecoming queen rolled into one. Everyone at SAS wanted us for primary care. We grew so quickly that in a few years we’d moved all administrative and nutrition offices to the second floor of Bldg. C to make way for additional exam rooms and clinical staff on the first floor.
And then SAS experienced explosive employee growth between 1996 and 2000. In response we began planning in earnest to double the size and patient capacity of the HCC. Since [the original]Bldg C could not accommodate an elevator, each floor of the HCC had to be able to function independently while offering the same clinical services and provider mix and expertise. The remaining 10,000 sq. ft. on the second floor was renovated to mirror the look and feel of the downstairs. It was a whole new way of thinking and being. In one month—November 2002—17 new HCC employees joined us in this new venture.
Just like the gold medal winning US men's gymnastics team at the 1984 Summer Olympics, the HCC was on a high. We dubbed the upstairs expansion Health Care 2 and took all comers for primary care. Less than 2 years later, due to siting for The Umstead Hotel & Spa, we got the incredible opportunity to design a new building from the ground up—something we had never done. We jumped into this as we’d jumped into everything—feet first! Less than 18 months later, on August 5, 2005, we moved into 35,000 sq. feet. in the newly constructed Bldg. W. This was a physical growth spurt of an additional 10,000 sq. feet.
I’ll never forget donning a hard hat and walking into the Bldg. W shell before the internal walls were erected. The space seemed immense, echoing with the sound of oohs and aahs as we recognized our ideas captured in physical form from architectural drawings and construction plans. It may not have been the same level of history-making as Cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya, the first woman to walk in space in 1984, but the final product was breath-taking and functional: solid surfaces in all the exam rooms, treatment rooms and lab; a beautifully appointed lobby with stylish furniture and eye-catching art; and an abundance of natural light. We were elated to be in our new home.
An Apple a Day
In the almost 9 years since our final move (we’re pretty sure of this since the original floor plan included 48 exam rooms!), we’ve added two additional PTs, two more nutritionists, and more physicians, nurse practitioners and nurses. We’ve altered job descriptions and tweaked job skills to accommodate use of an electronic health record, and freed up space used for hard copy charts to create a well-used multipurpose room. We’ve grown our breastfeeding and pediatrics programs, added HeartMath biofeedback training, and a wide array of minor surgical procedures like lesion removals plus IUD removals/insertions. In 2012 we added the wonderful HCC Pharmacy. We remain on the lookout for the next great thing to offer our patients.
Just like the first Apple Macintosh, sold at $2,495 thirty years ago, we’ve changed in some significant ways over the years. But we’re delighted to be stuck in 1984 in at least one regard—our desire to provide first rate health care by top-notch professionals in a family-friendly atmosphere. We don’t intend for that to ever change. Thanks to SAS employees for sticking with us and for helping us make history along the way. Here’s to the next thirty years!
Thanks, AND STAY HEALTHY!