Large Crowd Greets Senator Byrd at WVU Ceremony

Eastern Panhandle Heath Professions Center Named for Erma Byrd

 MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - An overflow crowd greeted U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Saturday at his first public appearance in West Virginia since the death of his wife, Erma, several weeks ago. He visited West Virginia University's new Erma Byrd Health Professions Education Center in Martinsburg for its dedication ceremony.

The Center, headquarters for the Eastern Division of the WestVirginia University Robert C. Byrd Health

U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd is surrounded by health professions students at West Virginia University's Eastern Division Saturday in Martinsburg. The students presented him with a glass plaque after his speech. ) 

Sciences Center, is on the campus of City Hospital. The 36,650 square-foot building includes a 200-seat auditorium, a 40-seat classroom, administrative offices, meeting rooms, a contemporary library, and a computer-based study area.

"We are making great strides in health care in West Virginia.  We are working to bring medical services closer to people’s homes so that patients do not have to travel out-of-state for specialized care.  We are expanding preventive health efforts and building new facilities to train the next generation of West Virginia doctors, nurses, and pharmacists," Byrd said.  "We must continue to work to make health care more affordable and more available to every West Virginian."

WVU chose to name the facility for Mrs. Byrd to honor her lifelong partnership with Senator Byrd, and to recognize the significant advancements in West Virginia’s health care network that they have helped to build.

"Erma would be so proud of West Virginia University's decision to name this new medical education center in her honor," Senator Byrd said. "It is a tribute to the compassion and concern that Erma showed toward everyone she met.  I pray that the hands of the Great Physician will guide the doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health professionals who train at this facility and give healing to their patients in many years to come. "

Senator Byrd was joined at the ceremony by WVU President David C. Hardesty; Robert M. D'Alessandri, WVU vice president for health sciences; Mitch Jacques, M.D., Eastern Division dean; and many of the students, faculty and community leaders who made the new building possible.

The Senator's assistance was crucial, Hardesty said. "Many of the state's most advanced facilities for teaching the health professions - and many of the facilities where West Virginians receive the finest healthcare - would not have been possible without his leadership. His vision for the people of the Eastern Panhandle of the state has been particularly bold. The establishment of a West Virginia University health campus in this region would not have been possible without his steadfast efforts."

Working in partnership with WVU, Senator Byrd added $6.5 million to federal legislation to construct the Center.

Dr. D'Alessandri recalled that Erma Byrd had been at the Senator's side on numerous visits to WVU health and educational facilities in the past. "It will be with great sadness that we welcome the Senator to our campus without his lifelong companion. But we believe that this facility is a fitting memorial to a woman whose concern for young people, both those within her family and those in her larger family across the State, was central to her life."

Senator Byrd was instrumental in building many of the University's health programs, including the Jon Michael Moore Trauma Center, the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, the Sleeth Family Medicine Center and the WVU Eye Institute.

"Together, we have made amazing progress," Byrd said. "From one end of West Virginia to the other, our state's medical facilities are fast developing into some of the best in the country.  That progress is saving lives.  Technology, training, and cutting-edge facilities are helping doctors and nurses to better treat patients' illnesses.  These initiatives also are helping West Virginians to live longer, healthier lives.  The new WVU medical center in the Eastern Panhandle will further that work, training the next generation of doctors and nurses and encouraging them to practice their healing craft here at home."

- WVU -

For more information:
Bill Case, HSC News Service, (304) 293-7087

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