UF, UF Health celebrate expansion of healthcare services at Durbin Park, ongoing regional growth across Northeast Florida

February 23, 2024
University of Florida and UF Health leaders today broke ground at UF Health Durbin Park, a 42.5-acre health and wellness campus that will advance health care services as part of UF’s regional expansion plan for Jacksonville and St. Johns County.

The first phase of the UF Health Durbin Park development, located in northeast St. Johns County, will include a full-service 150-bed hospital with a focus on orthopaedics, neurosurgery, cardiovascular medicine, and women’s services, as well as a multidisciplinary medical office building and an ambulatory surgery center. The project is expected to bring 2,000 new jobs to the area, for a total of 12,000 jobs in St. Johns and Jacksonville over time, and represents a $1 billion investment in Northeast Florida.

The initiative reflects an infusion of additional resources into one of the state’s fastest-growing regions — not just financial resources, but human resources and intellectual capital. That includes technologically advanced care focused on world-class outcomes, research opportunities — including access to new clinical trials — and training programs for the next generation of care providers.

The latest effort complements UF’s goal of introducing innovative programs in medicine, business, and engineering throughout Northeast Florida, including Jacksonville, said Mori Hosseini, chair of the UF Board of Trustees. These are aimed at supporting the region’s growing workforce and academic needs in biomedical technology and focused on pioneering technology related to simulation, health applications of artificial intelligence, patient quality and safety, health care administration, and fintech — opportunities to create strong synergies by uniting UF’s powerhouse programs with the city’s rising stature as a national health care and technology hub.

“I have two simple messages: First, if you want the highest quality of care, UF Health is here for you. Second, we’re here because the University of Florida has a bold vision for Northeast Florida,” Hosseini said. “Our bold vision will let us accomplish great things together. When it comes to going bold, UF knows a thing or two. Make no mistake: The University of Florida does not make small plans.

“We dare to dream big. We set high goals. And we hold ourselves to high standards,” he added. “When we do this, we achieve incredible things. We raise the bar. We deliver incredible results for Floridians. That’s exactly what we are going to do for St. Johns and the Jacksonville community… When the moment calls for nothing short of the best, come to UF Health.”

Once complete, the 395,000-square-foot hospital will include acute, intensive, and emergency care; operating rooms; and an imaging suite and hybrid labs for interventional procedures. Site work for construction of the hospital began in December 2023 and UF Health expects to care for the first patient by late 2025. The ambulatory surgery center will focus on orthopaedics and other surgical services, providing a full spectrum of care, including operating and procedural rooms, office space, and rehabilitation facilities.

UF President Ben Sasse said UF and UF Health are committed to working collaboratively with the community to best meet the needs of patients and their families.

“Together we are doubling down on bringing our unique approach to problem-solving care to the region, care that will simply make people’s lives better,” Sasse said. “This is a region on the rise, and we are proud to match our exceptional expertise with the needs of the community to revolutionize health services for the citizens of Florida. The work that we do here is going to save lives.”

The university’s academic health center is uniquely positioned to accomplish this, said David R. Nelson, M.D., senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health.

UF Health introduced the first mobile stroke treatment unit to the state last year, which is already dramatically improving patient outcomes by reducing time to treatment and is part of a network the system is building that will be larger than any in the country. UF Health also is home to an NCI-designated Cancer Center, the 72nd in the country and the only one in North Central and northern Florida — and the only one in Florida that is part of a public university.

And the health system is proud to be a national medical network member of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, one of just three — and the most comprehensive in the nation — to care for our Team USA athletes as they prepare for the Summer Games in Paris.

Other points of pride:

The UF College of Medicine is ranked the No. 1 medical school in Florida. The Blue Ridge National Institutes of Health rankings listed neurosurgery No. 2 among all universities, neuroscience/neurology No. 3, and surgical services No. 5.
UF Health is home to the nation’s premier program for liver, kidney, and lung transplantation, according to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, ranking No. 1 in liver transplant with the best one-year patient survival rate of 99.03%; No. 2 in kidney transplant and No. 1 in three-year patient survival for lung transplant.
UF Health Shands is recognized as one of U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals and Best Children’s Hospitals, with five adult specialties and four pediatric specialties ranking in the top 50.
UF and UF Health are committed to advancing artificial intelligence across industries, creating an academic hub to advance AI in the health sciences to put technology to work for patients.
“As we look to the future, our vision for UF Health is ambitious. We envision a health care landscape where every individual has access to world-class medical care, regardless of their location or circumstance,” Nelson said.

“It’s worth noting that this isn’t about growing bigger for its own sake,” he added. “It’s about growing better, and growing bolder. And it’s about how growth fuels our ability to reinvest in our mission, nurturing the stellar programs we already have … and all of our health care providers who are powering our ability to advance discovery and clinical care, and train the next generation.”

UF Health is committed to offering hope and healing, said Carlton DeVooght, CEO of UF Health St. Johns.

“Now is our time. It’s a time to celebrate not just the construction of a building, but the birth of a new era in health care for our community. With UF Health Durbin Park, we’re poised to become pioneers of innovation, compassion, and excellence in health care delivery. This won’t just be a hospital; it will be a cornerstone of our community — a place where patients will find comfort, families will find solace, and caregivers will find purpose. Our commitment to serving our community drives us forward with unwavering dedication and determination.”

The university seeks to ensure every member of the community has access to the resources they need to live their healthiest lives, Hosseini said.

“We do this with a deep sense of compassion and empathy,” he said. “Behind every diagnosis, every treatment, and every recovery, there is a human being — a mother, a father, a sister, or a friend. People matter. We treat each patient with the dignity, respect, and personalized care they deserve. People deserve to be supported, valued, and heard every step of the way. This is our commitment.”

About UF Health
UF Health is a world-class academic health center that combines leading-edge research at campuses around Florida with outstanding clinical care at a network of hospitals throughout the state. The flagship is UF Health Shands Hospital, part of Florida’s preeminent health system, with nine adult and pediatric specialties ranked among the nation’s elite top 50 programs in the 2023-2024 U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals and Best Children’s Hospitals surveys.

With main campuses in Gainesville and Jacksonville as well as satellite sites in Central Florida and several other locations, UF Health provides quality health care to patients across the nation’s third-most populous state. UF Health consists of six health colleges, 10 research centers and institutes, 11 hospitals — including two teaching hospitals and five specialty hospitals — and a host of physician medical practices and outpatient services.

About UF Health St. Johns
UF Health St. Johns, a regional division of UF Health, is dedicated to building healthier communities throughout Northeast Florida. Offering preventive, diagnostic and interventional care, including working with area schools to address youth behavioral health and the latest health and wellness options where our community members live, work and play.

The region includes UF Health Flagler Hospital, with a 130-year legacy of caring for the community, and multispecialty practices at UF Health Nocatee and UF Health MuraBella as well as primary care and specialty practices in neighborhoods throughout St. Johns County and beyond.

UF Health Flagler Hospital has earned the Gold Seal of Approval™ from The Joint Commission for primary stroke care centers, national accreditation for its total hip and total knee replacement programs, accreditation from the American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer, and Center of Excellence designation for its bariatric surgery program.