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Meet one visionary behind west Louisville's first hospital in over 100 years

Corenza Townsend will be in charge of making sure the needs of the community are met with the new medical center.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Crews are just months away from starting to build what will be west Louisville's first hospital in more than 100 years. They were seen Thursday, working to clear the lot on 28th and Broadway for construction.

This comes after extensive community feedback, where Norton Healthcare leaders shared plans for expansive hours, inpatient care and services focused on women and mental health.

One of the West Louisville Hospital project's visionaries, Corenza Townsend, kickstarted her role as chief administrative officer this week. She's in charge of making sure the needs of the community are met with the new medical center, set to open in late 2024.

Townsend has first-hand experience working with people in need in the west end. She joined Norton in 2009, and it wasn't long before she had a hand in founding Unity Jam - an annual event that brings medical resources into the Portland neighborhood.

That's when it clicked, she knew the community needed more.

"It's one thing to hear people talk about what's going on in a specific part of the city. It's another to live it, breathe it, be in it, have relationships with the folks there," she said.

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It sparked the idea she eventually pitched to Norton leadership in 2017, to remedy a decades-long medical desert in west Louisville. She envisioned the creation of a full-service hospital focusing on preventative care.

"When you have a voice, if somebody gives you the podium that's your opportunity to speak up," Townsend said. "Given the opportunity, that's exactly what we did. Had we not done that, we may not have been here."

Becoming a nurse at just 19 years old, Townsend has been taking care of people for as long as she can remember, helping family members battle through health challenges.

"When I was younger, I watched the stereotype of African American women with diabetes and heart problems. I had a family member who passed of cancer," she said. "You become a caregiver at a young age, so I just continued that on."

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Now, she's tasked with making sure entire families in the west end get that same attention on a larger scale.

"So many times people come in, and they'll do this big hoorah, and then they disappear. In this journey for this hospital we took the voice of the community," Townsend said. "We listened and we're carrying that through. We know there are disparities, [and] we are answering to that right now."

Townsend says she's looking forward to laying down the first bricks for this hospital. Early construction is set to start in the first quarter of next year.

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Contact reporter Isaiah Kim-Martinez at ikimmartin@whas11.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@isaiah_km) and Facebook.

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