The center will be built into the existing community center structure. Renovations will be performed to two of LHJCC's cinemas and with completion expected in June 2011.
Dr. James Brick of West Virginia University spoke during the ceremony. Dr. Brick felt the the new center honors the memory of the late Gov. Okey Patteson, governor of West Virginia from 1949 to 1953 and Mingo County native. Patteson decided to place the state's first medical school at WVU.
"After a complicated decision process, the school was built in Morgantown–just about as far as you can get from Gilbert and still be in West Virginia," said Brick. "But today, we have representatives of West Virginia's three great medical schools to help us begin this clinic and I think that this is a way for us to honor Gov. Patteson's memory.
"Somewhere up there above us, he's looking down on us right now and smiling. We made it, Gov. Patteson... We finally made it to Mingo County."
The WVU School of Medicine along with the West Virginia Osteopathic School of Medicine, and Marshall University School of Medicine are collaborating with LHJCC, the town of Gilbert, Forward Southern West Virginia, Inc. and the West Virginia Health Care Authority in the construction of the health center.
The large crowd at the groundbreaking also heard from the benefactor of the community center, James "Buck" Harless who shared the dream of a dedicated medical facility in Gilbert with his son, Larry Joe.
"We hope that it serves the community like we expect it to with the help of the three medical schools," said Harless during his speech.
To close the ceremony, Father Thomas Acker of Forward Southern West Virginia, Inc. spoke about the contributions made by the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd and the progress made when republicans and democrats work together.
"Robert C. Byrd made the appropriation (for the health center) as one of his last moves as he is now departed from us," said Acker. "It's symbolic, isn't it? All over the United States, we're wishing 'can't democrats and republicans get together and make some progress'. And there you have it. A great republican, Mr. "Buck" Harless and a great democrat, Mr. Robert C. Byrd. I hope that symbolism extends for the rest of the years to come with the two Congresses working together for the good of the people."