Serving as President of the University of North Florida and the CEO of University of North Florida MedNexus, Dr. David Szymanski is a busy man. Flagler News Weekly caught up with him at the recent Flagler Tiger Bay Club Social by the Sea Meet & Greet, and managed to squeeze in four of the five questions with Dr. Szymanski in less than three minutes.

Dr. David M. Szymanski/President, University of North Florida & CEO, UNF MedNexus, Greg Davis/President, Flagler Tiger Bay Club, David Alfin/Mayor, City of Palm Coast

Tell readers a bit about the initiative you just launched with the school districts.

We’re going to do an innovation challenge in the healthcare area, so we have our Innovation Center, (and) we have five students who are interns working at the high schools. We’re going to have this challenge where they think about ideas in healthcare. They’re going to think about student well-being, they’re going to talk about COVID, they’re going to talk about what it means to be successful in the healthcare field. So, we’re bringing all the students together, get them excited while they’re in high school about potential healthcare careers, issues that people address in there, and really kind of thinking about that path of high school to college to potential jobs.

How does this help set the stage for MedNexus and all the great things to come?

There’s an opportunity to get people excited about the healthcare field. Right now we’re going to be educating nurses but there’s all these professions in healthcare. We want to get the students excited about potential nursing careers, thinking about coming to not only UNF, but we have a partnership with Daytona State, and so it’s a 2+2 program. Two years at Daytona State, two years at UNF, and we’re also doing a 4+1. You get your BSN (Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing) degree at Daytona State then you come to UNF for the graduate degree under the MSN (Master’s of Science in Nursing) program.

You’re getting the building (in City Centre) ready. Do you have a date set for when you’ll come in?

We got a certificate of occupancy today, so we’re getting furniture, technology but we’ve already started the school year this week. Hopefully within the next couple of weeks or so, we’ll be holding classes within the building.

A few years ago, did you ever think something like this could come to fruition?

No, but we had people that reached out. (Florida Representative) Paul Renner, who’s from this area, he’s fantastic. He reached out to us along with Mayor Holland and they brought us down. I think I’d only been on the job about a month or two and they go ‘come down to Palm Coast and let’s talk about this’ and so we talked about it and I began thinking about different ideas.

Also, the timing was right. He said we can create this thing called the MedNexus and here’s what I want to do, and we can do this in Palm Coast. And so, it’s been a great partnership with AdventHealth. Flagler’s coming here too and we have great partnerships with them. Partnership with the City and Daytona State and UNF, so (we’re) bringing all these people together to make a difference for the community.