Tall flags and colorful ribbons fluttered in the breeze against the backdrop of newly installed aqua glass panels, and hundreds of people pressed toward the doors of the building. Many in the crowd wore hospital badges, white coats and stethoscopes, and a few wore in-patient bracelets.
Hospital administrators, employees and even patients gathered Sept. 3 to celebrate the opening of the Sebastian Ferrero Atrium at the UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital.
The renovations began in April 2013 and cost $11 million. They included the atrium and entryway, multi-colored window panels and interior renovations.
Inside, visitors are greeted by nature-themed murals featuring Florida wildlife and animal facts. “Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience,” reads a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote emblazoned on a glass panel.
During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Edward Jimenez, the interim chief executive officer of UF Health Shands, said the renovations mark the institution’s progress.
“Today we celebrate, we recognize…that the UF Health Children’s Hospital is a premier institution,” he said.
Scott Rivkees, chairman of UF’s pediatric department, said the hospital’s exterior now reflects more accurately the quality of care thousands of children receive at the hospital each year.
“We’re giving more than an entrance,” he said. “We’re giving children and families dreams, hopes…but most of all, health.”
At the end of the ceremony, Mindy Lewis pushed her 3-year-old daughter Kendall in a blue, car-shaped stroller with one hand and pulled a rolling monitor with the other hand. She said Kendall has been a patient at the hospital since the day after she was born in Marion County.
Standing outside squinting up at the brightly striped window panels, Lewis said the new atrium is a welcome change of scenery.
“We like it,” she said. “It’s pretty. I’m glad it’s open.”
Julie Breams, who also attended the opening, agreed that the new look is uplifting.
“It’s nice so see some color and see the place get refreshed,” said Breams, has been conducting EKGs at the hospital for the past 13 years.
David Guzick, president of UF Health Shands, said the children’s hospital renovations tie into UF’s top-10 public university preeminence drive.
He said state-of-the-art facilities can help attract talent, keep people engaged and send the message that a program is top-notch.
“If you just do research without having truly vibrant facilities and wonderful clinicians…in this world, that isn’t preeminent,” he said.