Insider Info Aurora VA & Fitzsimons Campus

Aurora VA & Fitzsimons Campus are both a long and costly route for the taxpayers of Colorado.

Aurora VA & Fitzsimons Campusis the academic health sciences campus in Aurora, Colorado that houses the University of Colorado’s six health sciences-related schools and colleges, including the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the CU College of Nursing, the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine, and the Colorado School of Public Health, as well as the graduate school for various fields in the biological and biomedical sciences. The campus also includes the 184-acre (0.74 km2) Fitzsimons Innovation Community, UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital, Children’s Hospital Colorado, the Rocky Mountain Regional Veterans Affairs hospital, and a residential/retail town center known as 21 Fitzsimons.

The campus is located on a portion of the former Fitzsimons Army Medical Center. After the base was decommissioned in 1999, the campus became known as the Fitzsimons Medical Campus, or simply “Fitzsimons,” and adopted its current name in 2006 after the Anschutz family donated $91 million to construct the Anschutz Centers for Advanced Medicine, which include the Anschutz Outpatient and Cancer Pavilions, and the Anschutz Inpatient Pavilion.

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University of Colorado Health Sciences Center

The University of Colorado created the Department of Medicine and Surgery in September 1883 in the Old Main building on the Boulder campus. This department granted its first degrees in 1885.

By 1892, the last two years of classes were taught in Denver because the larger population afforded more practical experience. This triggered a turf battle with the private medical school at the University of Denver, and the resulting legal battle went all the way to the Supreme Court of Colorado. In 1897, the Supreme Court found that the charter of the University of Colorado restricted it to teaching in Boulder.

Then in 1910, University of Colorado persuaded the legislature to amend the state constitution, allowing the university to move its medical school back to Denver. In 1911, the School of Medicine merged with the private Denver and Gross Medical College to form a larger school with a more comprehensive program, thus paving the way for the medical school to move permanently to Denver.

In 1925, the U.C. School of Medicine moved to a campus on 9th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard in Denver. This eventually became the modern University of Colorado Health Sciences Center (the Anschutz Medical Campus in the long run).

In 1947, the University of Colorado Hospital assumed responsibility for patients referred to it from the Denver General Hospital. The state paid for their care, and medical and nursing students got instruction.

In 1995, Fitzsimons Army Medical Center was put on the Base Realignment and Closure list by Congress. Officials from the Health Sciences Center, the University of Colorado Hospital, and the City of Aurora presented a proposal to the Department of Defense to utilize part of the decommissioned Army medical center as an academic health center for the University of Colorado.

In 2004, the first medical school laboratories moved from Denver to the research towers on the Fitzsimons grounds. Then in 2006, the Fitzsimons campus was renamed the “Anschutz Medical Campus” in recognition of the large donations of money from Philip Anschutz and his wife Nancy Anschutz.

By the end of 2008, all of the academic and research operations of the University of Colorado at Denver health sciences schools and colleges had been relocated from their older campus in Denver to the new Anschutz Medical Campus, joining the University of Colorado Hospital and the Children’s Hospital (Colorado).


Fitzsimons Innovation Community

Fitzsimons Army Hospital — known as Fitzsimons Army Medical Center (FAMC) from 1974 — was a U.S. Army facility located on 577 acres (234 ha) in Aurora, Colorado, USA. The facility opened in 1918 and closed in 1999; the grounds are currently being redeveloped for civilian use as the Anschutz Medical Campus and the Fitzsimons Innovation Community.

In the 1960s Fitzsimons Army Hospital became further known for its US Army “Clinical Specialist School,” at that time one of the longest professional schools for enlisted US military personnel. US Army medics of varied service and rank studied both academically and in rotation on the hospital’s wards. At the end of close to a year of study, those students who had previously gained “Combat Medic” (91A10) and “Medical Specialist” (91B20) proficiency now graduated as “Clinical Specialists” (91C20), a level of medical proficiency which paralleled that of the “Licensed Practical Nurse” (LPN or LVN) in the civilian world, but inclusive of additional skills such as treatment of basic wound trauma and elemental surgical methods more applicable to military wartime nursing. Most of the 91C20s (“Ninety-one Charlies”) would find themselves working with registered nurses in military hospital settings, but as the Vietnam War was at its height in the late 1960s, certain graduates would move on to Special Forces assignments and such as Medical Civic Action assistance (MEDCAPs) for those Vietnamese living in more remote regions, and so often forced to go without the benefits enjoyed by Vietnamese living near cities. “Ninety-one Charlies” proved well suited to a medical niche previously wanting for civilian-certified Practical Nurses.

The Aurora VA hospital’s long, costly route to Aurora

As the Denver Post stated: “Aurora VA ’s move from east Denver to Aurora has a long and costly history.”

1995: Fitzsimons Army Medical Center, near I-225 and Colfax Avenue, is put on the base closure list; Aurora and University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, including University Hospital, pitch proposals to move CU facilities from E. Ninth Ave. and Colorado Blvd. to the Aurora land.

1997: CU leases part of Fitzsimons. University Hospital leaders begin talks for a joint venture with the aging VA hospital near Ninth and Colorado, which also would like to move clinical rooms to Fitzsimons.

1997-2003: On-again, off-again talks between University and the VA range between the VA taking a few floors inside a University patient tower to building a connected tower. Prices for the VA share start between $185 and $200 million, officials say.

2004: After the fall elections, VA tells Denver officials and the Colorado delegation that it will not pursue a joint venture and it needs a stand-alone hospital with more land.

2005: VA department and Aurora announce a new separate VA hospital will go up on former Fitzsimons land, well east of but “within walking distance” of University’s new facility.

2006: A U.S. House committee blasts the VA for allowing the proposed cost of a new Denver-area hospital to shoot from $328 million to $621 million; the committee suggests a complete cutoff of project. Congress does not take the advice.

2008: The Colorado delegation scorches VA officials for an allegedly secretive plan to return to a shrunken new hospital project, again sharing towers with University. After an outcry from veterans and lawmakers, Congress authorizes $568.4 million for a new hospital.

2009: VA goes public with new plan for a stand-alone hospital.

2010: Congress authorizes $800 million for the project, including a special traumatic injury center.

2011: Two years after groundbreaking is announced, no major construction contract is yet signed. Delegation pressure helps land contract late in year.

2012: Construction finally begins for a new Aurora VA facility.

2013: GAO hits the Aurora project and other major Aurora VA building plans for being far over original prices and long past due dates.

2015: Projected opening of new Aurora VA .

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