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Toronto genetics testing company selects Grand Rapids' West Side location for first laboratory

Toronto, Ontario-based Arctic DX has selected Grand Rapids' American Seating Park on the city's west side as the site of its first genetics testing laboratory, Arctic Laboratories. The $1.9 million facility is under construction at 801 Broadway NW and will process its first tests for genetic age-related macular degeneration this September.

In 2009, the company released its Macula Risk test to identify patients who have inherited the genes that cause macular degeneration, an eye disease that, left undiagnosed and untreated, causes blindness. Arctic DX has been using outside genetics laboratories to process the test results. The 7,500-square-foot facility is the first testing laboratory owned and operated by the company.

"Twenty percent of patients with macular degeneration are at risk of progression to blindness," says CFO/COO Jim Pelot. "Macular degeneration starts in patients around age 50 to 60 and is asymptomatic, so the patient doesn't know it's there until it's discovered by their eye doctor. The purpose of Macula Risk is to catch the disease early enough to make sure the patient doesn't lose their vision."

Two-thirds of the new facility is dedicated lab space that includes a separated ventilated lab that will keep the genetic testing area free of airborne DNA, says Pelot. The rest of the space will be staff offices and meeting rooms.

"We sat down with three different short-listed jurisdictions to discuss how to work with the city and the state for us to settle there, and decided on Grand Rapids," Pelot says. "Other considerations were the pool of [potential employees] who are familiar with molecular genetics, we wanted the laboratory to be easy to get to, and we have a number of Michigan doctors who are customers."

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation recently awarded Arctic DX a $220,000 Business Development Program incentive to build the laboratory in Grand Rapids.

The laboratory will create 28 jobs in the area. See the related story New Grand Rapids genetics testing lab seeks workers for research, office positions.

For more information on the Macula Risk test, click here.

Source: Jim Pelot, Arctic DX
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

$200K in grants fuel alternative energy, life sciences, biotech startups in Grand Rapids, Muskegon

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) has awarded $200,000 in grant monies to fuel the continued development of two Grand Valley State University incubator programs for life sciences, high technology and alternative energy startups.

The incubators, housed at the West Michigan Science and Technology Initiative (WMSTI) in Grand Rapids' SmartZone and the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center (MAREC) in Muskegon's SmartZone, each received $100,000 in separate grants.

"MAREC has always had incubator capacity, but it's never been fully developed, never had staff allocated," says Director Arn Boezaart. "The grant will allow us to ramp up the visibility of the incubator and the incubator capacity, and have some money to help entrepreneurs."

MAREC will combine the $100,000 grant with some $90,000 already on hand to fund enhancements that include furnishings, supplies, marketing and professional consultation services for incubator clients. The largest allocation ($44,000) will subsidize MAREC's first incubator manager, a two-year part-time position. Some $13,000 will also be allocated to a seed capital fund for energy and high-tech startups.

Boezaart says 60 percent of MAREC's 6,000 square feet of office and dry lab space is available for high-tech and alternative and renewable energy startups.

"Right now, MAREC is the lakeshore area's only publicly operated incubator facility," Boezaart says. "Given that we're so focused on economic development and entrepreneurial activity, it seems that we can make this facility as supportive as we can possibly be to new business development."

WMSTI will invest its $100,000 grant to continue development of its mini-lab incubator option for life sciences and high-technology startups, and to increase its marketing research and communications capacities to reach biotech entrepreneurs who need immediate lab space, specifically those receiving SBIR/STTR grants.

Background materials provided by GVSU state that the new funding will allow WMSTI to accommodate up to five more incubator members, who will have access to over 100 pieces of shared equipment and instrumentation.

WMSTI's funding will also support professional consulting services, marketing, business development and licenses for specialized management and tracking software to assist incubator clients in the development and commercialization of their product.

Source: Arn Boezaart, Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center; Bonnie Dawdy, West Michigan Science and Technology Initiative; Lambert Edwards & Associates
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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$15M Bobville, $24M Health Park Central approved for brownfield abatements in Grand Rapids

Deborah Johnson Wood

The City of Grand Rapids approved two proposed development projects with a combined investment cost of $39 million for brownfield redevelopment tax abatements last week.

The $24 million entertainment and retail complex, Bobville, proposed by The Gilmore Collection, and the $15 million Health Park Central proposed by Health Park Central, LLC could generate an ongoing economic boost to the city, as well as dozens of jobs.

Plans for the project dubbed "Bobville" include a new four-story mixed-use building adjacent to The B.O.B., and will feature retail, entertainment venues, hotel condos and packaged food manufacturing. The parcel, currently a parking lot, is contaminated "probably due to urban fill," says Kara Wood, city economic development director. The complex could create 150 jobs.

"The lot was city-owned and sold to Greg Gilmore with a very specific development agreement," Wood says. "We're hoping Bobville will increase density in the downtown area and will provide a unique entertainment venue the downtown currently doesn't have."

Health Park Central plans propose the renovation of an existing medical office building at 245 Cherry SE and construction of a second medical building. The large land parcel across from Saint Mary's Health Care includes 216 and 236 State St. SE and 114 and 120 Jefferson Ave. SE.

The project is less than a block away from the $30 million Heart of the City Health Center currently under construction, and it will increase the availability of medical services and medical office space within steps of Saint Mary's Health Care campus.

"The city may be investing in this project with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act bonds we received," Wood says. "We got a total of $25 million and Health Park Central is asking for $8 million in bond allocation."

The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority will support both projects with an as yet undetermined amount of tax increment financing, Wood says. Both projects will apply to the state for tax credits.

"It's important to mention that even in these tough economic times, we're still able to put together strong public-private partnerships," Wood says.

Source: Kara Wood, City of Grand Rapids Economic Development Office; Craig Clark, Clark Communications

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com. Development News tips can be sent to info@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Sneak peek at $90M Secchia Center, Michigan State University's med school in Grand Rapids

Deborah Johnson Wood

Members of the media received a sneak peak at the completed Secchia Center, the new home of Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine. The tour showcased one of the most advanced – and beautiful – energy-efficient structures in West Michigan.

Construction of the $90 million state-of-the-art facility strategically situates the building at 15 Michigan St. NE, Grand Rapids, to maximize exposure to daylight and views of the city and Grand River.

A four-story atrium faces west with windows that frame nearby Bridgewater Place like a photograph.

"This is the 'living room' of the building," says Elizabeth Lawrence, assistant dean and project lead for the Secchia Center. "This is the focal point where students will gather."

Honey-colored wood, custom designed tile art, sage greens and burnt oranges fill the 180,000-square-foot building with warmth. Daylight streams through the windows, and a smart lighting system illuminates spaces only when light levels are low.

The building features 25 "exam rooms" where students learn how to interact with patients by "treating" standardized patients – actors hired to follow a script of medical maladies. Several empty rooms will be configured to fit the needs of the students and can simulate a room in a nursing home, a patient's house or a hospital.

The pristine lines of a five-story wood and glass staircase zigzag upward through the center of the building, open from top to bottom, creating an eye-catching sculptural effect.

On each floor, study pods, open spaces with comfortable couches, and alcoves with tables and chairs provide communal and semi-private areas where students can study and engage with each other one-on-one or in groups. Two lecture halls enable students from MSU's other six campuses to attend classes taught in Grand Rapids via video conferencing.

The college expects some 250 students this year, and predicts that many of them will complete their residencies in West Michigan after graduation.

"Last year, 17 of our 30 graduates stayed here for their residencies," says Margaret Thompson, M.D., associate dean.

The building is named for MSU alumni and lead donors Ambassador Peter and Joan Secchia. Funding for the project comes entirely from private donations, bonds and other sources, says Lawrence.

The architect of record is URS Corporation, the design architect is Ellenzweig of Cambridge, Mass., and the Christman Company constructed the building.

The college plans a public open house from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday, September 11.

Source: Elizabeth Lawrence and Margaret Thompson, MSU College of Human Medicine; Wondergem Consulting

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com. Development News tips can be sent to info@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Blodgett Hospital's $98 million expansion includes rooms with a view

Deborah Johnson Wood

The $98 million expansion of Grand Rapids' Blodgett Hospital converts the entire facility to private rooms – many of which will have a lake view.

"It's an enormous pleasure to look out the windows, because some of the rooms face Fisk Lake," says Derrick Brown, project manager for Spectrum Health Hospital Group. "It's just breathtaking to see the lake and the gorgeous homes. This is the only healthcare facility that I've ever worked on that's had a significant view like that."

Brown says the 162,000-square-foot addition converts the entire hospital to private patient rooms and adds eight operating rooms, bringing the total operating rooms to 14 with space to add four more, if needed.

The four-story LEED project is on budget and on schedule for public tours the week of September 20 and seeing patients the week of October 10, 2010.

The drywall installation is complete on all floors, with final painting and wall coverings underway. The first floor construction is completed and awaiting the arrival of cabinets and nurses' stations, says Brown.

The original plans did not include a basement, but Brown says that was added after construction began.

But even though everything is on schedule, the project has presented its own set of challenges.

"The site has very limited space and we haven't had "lay down" space for building materials," Brown says. "Some portions have been built offsite and brought over; other things, like the steel, came precut and prepped so we were able to move a lot faster."

Throughout the length of the project Brown says Spectrum Health has kept neighbors apprised of what to expect.

"The Blodgett campus is a community hospital, and any time the work will be noisy, create vibrations or we've had to shut down a street, we've communicated that by going door-to-door," Brown says. "I've done this type of work at other hospitals for a number of years and nowhere have we had the interaction with the community that we've had here."

Source: Derrick Brown, Spectrum Health Hospital Group

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com. Development News tips can be sent to info@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Saint Mary's to build clinical trial unit for neuroscience research Phase 1 trials

Deborah Johnson Wood

Saint Mary's Health Care plans to construct a 12-bed clinical trial unit on its downtown Grand Rapids campus as part of its neuroscience research program. The unit will focus on Phase 1 clinical trials and will be available as a community resource for other medical facilities in West Michigan.

The 6,000-square-foot clinic will occupy much of the main floor of Saint Mary's medical office building, 260 Jefferson Ave. SE. Patients will participate in inpatient and outpatient central nervous system (CNS) clinical trials and non-CNS trials in diabetes, nephrology, HIV/AIDS and other diseases.

"Saint Mary's is a founding member of ClinXus and through that group the need for a phase one clinic became clear," says Susan Hoppough, director of research and innovation at Saint Mary's. "The focus will be on those individuals that have a diagnosis that requires that they stay in an inpatient study for the duration of the trial.

"I would anticipate we would be offering clinical trials for ALS and also opportunities for medical device clinical trials," she says.

Hoppough says Saint Mary's has developed relationships with the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, the Van Andel Institute and TGen that will help move medical discoveries from the laboratory into clinical trials.

"As we partner with MSU in particular, they will be able to move their Parkinson's research from clinical trials into patient populations," Hoppough says.

The unit's design incorporates flexibility – clinicians can move equipment in and out as needed and each four-bed module will have space for family members to stay with the patient.

"This is really an opportunity for us to bring clinical trials to patient populations who might otherwise not have access to this," Hoppough says. "Saint Mary's is mission driven to serve the poor and underserved, and this continues our mission to bring the best in medical care and research to the community right in West Michigan."

Source: Susan Hoppough, Saint Mary's Health Care

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com Development News tips can be sent to info@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

$98M Blodgett Hospital overhaul proceeding on schedule in East Grand Rapids

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

The $98 million overhaul and a 162,000-square-foot expansion of Blodgett Hospital at 1840 Wealthy Street SE is on schedule for a November 2010 opening.

When it's all done, 284 private patient rooms with family gathering space in each will bring a new dimension to patient care. The plan is to close existing patient beds in buildings built in 1916, the '50s and the '60s. To make up for that loss, the new five-story expansion includes 131 private patient rooms, as well as eight state-of-the-art operating rooms.

"The investment we're making here at Blodgett is a lot more than just the buildings and renovations," says Jim Wilson, president. "We are updating to state-of-the-art technologies all of the imaging modalities we have."

Those include two CT scanners installed last year, upgrades to nuclear medicine and fluoroscopy technologies, the addition of a second MRI machine, and an upgrade to digital mammography last year.

A renovation of the emergency room involves new patient care rooms, an already-reconstructed clinical core area, and renovation of the examination rooms.

All public spaces—lobbies, conference rooms, an auditorium, restrooms, kitchen/cafeteria—are also on the drawing board for upgrades.

Infrastructure revamps include ongoing improvements -- some began two years ago -- to the parking deck and replacement of all the elevators in the hospital's 11 elevator banks.

The Blodgett campus, part of the Spectrum Health system, provides 1,800 full-time-equivalent jobs just inside the East Grand Rapids city boundaries.

"We're excited to make this investment so Blodgett hospital continues to be a very viable part of the East Grand Rapids business community," Wilson says. "We take that commitment very seriously."

Source: Jim Wilson, Blodgett Hospital

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Grand Rapids $286M Children's Hospital on track to provide state-of-the-art pediatric care in 2011

The $286 million Helen DeVos Children's Hospital rising along Grand Rapids' Medical Mile is still on track for a January 2011 opening. So says hospital president Robert Connors, who led a media tour of the partially completed facility this week.

The tour included the lobby/entry, operating rooms and nursery and neonatal facilities – all of which are still under construction.

The 14-story, 440,000-square-foot facility will have 206 beds, all in private rooms that include in-room overnight accommodations for family members who want to stay with their child. Each room features technology that allows physicians to view a patient's X-rays and test information at special viewing panels.

A skywalk across Michigan Street connects to 35 Michigan Street, a facility that includes "parking and 50,000 square feet of ambulatory space for outpatient clinics," says Anne Veltema, hospital spokesperson.

Pediatric services will include respiratory care, neurosurgery, oncology, diagnostic testing and other services for critically ill and injured children. A new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit attached to the existing NICU will add 40 private rooms for premature infants.

Non-medical amenities include a kid-friendly environment, artwork and design created by children, an outdoor garden and room for play and entertainment to promote healing.

"The new Helen DeVos Children's Hospital will enhance access to medical care for children and their families," says Dr. Connors. "The new environment is designed specifically to meet the needs of a child. We have been building the care team for years and now have a centrally located building to provide the very best for children."

The current hospital located at the Spectrum Health Medical Center opened in 1993. More than 7,600 children receive in-patient care each year and hospital staff attends to 39,000 emergency room visits annually.

Source: Dr. Robert Connors, Anne Veltema, Helen DeVos Children's Hospital

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

RGTV - After three years, $60M Hauenstein Center at Saint Mary's receives first patients

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Last Monday, the $60 million Hauenstein Center at Saint Mary’s opened its doors to patients after nearly three years of construction. The center, 220 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids, is the latest comprehensive care center on the Saint Mary’s Health Care campus.

“All the neuroscience providers are under one roof and all on one floor, where before they were on four different sites across the campus,” says Leanna Krukowski, clinical service director. “Now if a patient comes into, for instance, the spine center and we need a surgeon to look at them, all we have to do is go get the surgeon. Before, the patient had to leave the spine center and maybe drive to the other part of the campus.”

The facility contains all seven ambulatory clinics: Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, general neurology, neuro-ophthalmalogy, the spine center, epilepsy clinic and neurosurgery.

In addition, a new state-of-the-art emergency department occupies a portion of the building. The ER includes a 64-slice CT scanner so patients can stay right in the ER for emergency scans. A patient can be loaded into the machine, scanned and unloaded in just five minutes.

A leading-edge ICU contains 32 private rooms equipped for acuity care, so as patients progress through their care they can stay in the room and have the same caregivers.

“Neurology patients had to drive to Ann Arbor, Detroit or Chicago for treatment and they don’t have to anymore,” Krukowski says.

All art inside the facility features Michigan landscapes by Michigan artists.

Saint Mary’s plans to apply for silver LEED certification.

Source: Leanna Krukowski, Saint Mary’s Health Care

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Redesigned hillside park near Medical Mile memorializes cancer survivors

It's just under an acre in size, but a tiny spot of hillside greenery near Grand Rapids' Medical Mile is where many people find respite from the concrete, traffic and noise of the surrounding neighborhood. And now elements within the park will honor cancer survivors.

Crescent Park, nestled against the south side of Van Andel Institute (VAI) at Bostwick and Crescent streets, is a city park recently adopted by a nonprofit group called The Friends of Crescent Park and renovated in conjunction with the VAI's current expansion. The VAI established the nonprofit to raise the funds needed to renovate the park and pay for ongoing maintenance.

Cancer research is VAI's primary research focus. The new Crescent Park is dedicated to cancer survivors and features concrete pavers, stone slabs and granite benches purchased by donors and engraved with the names of cancer survivors.

New plantings have revitalized the hillside and include "close to 3,000 new shrubs, ground cover and other plants," says Bill Culhane, VAI spokesperson. "We planted about 35 new trees and added 20 new benches and six new picnic tables. And we added general lighting and accent lighting in the park, where before there was only lighting from nearby street lights."

A central feature is a new circular plaza atop the hillside, overlooking downtown. Flowering walls cascade in steps down the hill below the plaza. When in bloom, the walls will create a living waterfall effect says Culhane.

"The park was donated to the city with the caveat that it always be a park," says Culhane. "It will be used by the VAI scientists and visitors, and historically, it's been heavily used by Spectrum Health staff and by visitors who have loved ones in the hospital, and by GRCC students."
The park will open in spring 2010.

Source: Bill Culhane, Van Andel Institute and Culhane & Fahrenkrug Consulting

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Photograph by Jeff Dykhouse

Monroe North business leaders hope new ASP will attract high-tech businesses, create river access

The Grand Rapids Planning Commission recently approved an Area Specific Plan (ASP) for the Monroe North business district that business leaders hope will help spur development of high-tech businesses.

Part of the district lies within the Grand Rapids SmartZone established in 2001. It is one of 15 clusters in the state designed to spur development of life sciences, high tech and advanced manufacturing ventures and jobs.

Although the ASP guides development for the entire Monroe North business district – bounded by Michigan on the south, Division on the east, Leonard on the north and the Grand River on the west – the SmartZone lies only in the area south of Coldbrook.

The ASP study reports that Monroe North's proximity to the Medical Mile and the city's track record for successful private/public partnerships are significant assets to attracting high tech ventures, especially if pedestrian and transit access is improved.

"Not as many life sciences incubators are being developed as we'd hoped," says Jim Zawacki, Sr., owner of Grand Rapids Spring & Stamping and a member of the ASP steering committee. "We're in the SmartZone and thought this would be perfect, but people who own the buildings aren't necessarily interested in creating incubators."

But there's also hope that will change.

"It will take one or two good developments to set the area on fire, just like when the Brass Works renovation started," says Howard Hanson of Parkland Properties and a steering committee member. "People thought that venture was crazy, but development really took hold after that.

"The city has money earmarked to make improvements in the infrastructure," Hanson adds. "Ottawa has a lot of potholes and tired buildings, but if they do the infrastructure repairs they certainly will make it more desirable for developers."

Bonus height incentives are in place to help develop the district, says Suzanne Schulz, planning department director. For instance, the Grand River Overlay Zone allows developers to build taller buildings in exchange for landscaped public access to and along the river.

Source: Jim Zawacki, Grand Rapids Spring & Stamping; Howard Hanson, Parkland Properties; Suzanne Schulz, City of Grand Rapids

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

$286M Children’s Hospital rises along Medical Mile

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Hospital officials say the $286 million Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is is right on schedule for the spring 2011 opening, even though parts of the building now wrapped in its Arctic Blue Viracon Architectural Glass look almost ready to accept the first patient.

“The structure of the lower three levels that house the clinical spaces are complete,” says Ron Dawson, project manager for Wolverine-Turner Construction. “We’re installing the interior partitions and the overhead and in-wall mechanical and electrical services. We’re about 90 percent complete on the C level, which houses the pediatric emergency and radiology departments.”

The glass panels on the facade are constructed to shade the interior from the sun’s heat and prevent condensation build up. Even though the panels are blue on the outside, the sunlight inside the rooms has no hint of blue.

Across Michigan Street to the north, Christman Construction has broken ground on a medical building called Tower 35. The hospital parking ramp will be located under the building, and an elevator tower will act as the north anchor for an enclosed elevated pedestrian walkway across Michigan Street to the hospital. Wolverine-Turner, the hospital and Christman have collaborated on the construction of the various elements to bring the entire project together.

“We’ve also worked with the City, Christman and MDOT to coordinate with the I-196 construction in 2010 and have been able to modify our construction methods to accommodate the extra traffic that’s expected on Michigan,” says Jonathan Flyte, Spectrum Health’s vice president of facilities.

When completed, the 14-story, 440,000-square-foot hospital will have 1,013 doors, 6,800 glass panels on the tower curtain wall alone, 21 miles of plumbing pipes and 1,250 tons of structural steel spread over 11 floors above ground.

The building will be LEED certified.

Source: Ron Dawson, Wolverine-Turner Construction; Jonathan Flyte, Spectrum Health

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Grand Rapids family health care provider partners with local pharmacies

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

The West Michigan Center for Family Health at 1425 Michigan St. NE in Grand Rapids recently partnered with Spartan Stores to provide members significant discounts on prescription medications. The discounts range from 10 percent to 70 percent, depending on the pharmaceutical manufacturer.

“As part of our program, we offer discounts for pharmaceuticals and did that through our own onsite pharmacy, Bill’s Pills,” says Diane Zandstra, business development director and a partner in the organization.

In October, Spartan Stores purchased Bill’s Pills’ assets and partnered with WMCFH to offer member discounts at area Spartan Stores in-store pharmacies, including Family Fare, D&W and others. 

That move provided WMCFH members the convenience of having more pharmacy locations, and freed up clinic space for the growing healthcare provider.

While the West Michigan Center for Family Health provides medical services for patients who have health insurance, its focus is to provide full-service primary healthcare for uninsured individuals and families. The cost is a low annual membership fee: $500 for the first family member, $400 for the second, and $350 for subsequent members.

“The fee gets you unlimited care in our office,” Zandstra adds. “We don’t care if you come in for the flu, a physical, a broken finger, hearing tests, vision tests, or weight loss, we provide you with all services with no co-pays.”

X-rays, EKG, Spirometry, immunizations and flu shots are a few of the offerings. The center employs physicians, physician assistants, a thyroid and wellness specialist, nurses, offers services in English and Spanish, and will soon have an OB/GYN on staff.

Source: Diane Zandstra, West Michigan Center for Family Health

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

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