Media Contacts

Kathy Wilets

Director, Public Relations, University of Utah Health
Email: kathy.wilets@hsc.utah.edu
Phone: 801-581-5717

Sep 16, 2020 10:00 AM

University of Utah Health and the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation announced the opening of the Craig H. Neilsen Rehabilitation Hospital today, transforming the University of Utah into one of the nation’s preeminent institutions for physical rehabilitation care.

The 75-bed hospital is one of the most advanced rehabilitation facilities in the nation and the foremost destination in the Mountain West for patients recovering from and adjusting to life-altering injuries and conditions. The state-of-the-art hospital was made possible thanks to a $47.5 million donation from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation.

“This hospital makes the University of Utah the leading facility for patients suffering from spinal cord, neck and numerous other debilitating injuries across the Mountain West,” said University of Utah President Ruth V. Watkins. “Patients and their families can expect world-class rehabilitative care for strokes and traumatic brain injuries as well as spinal cord and orthopedic conditions. We are so grateful for the incredible contribution of the Neilsen Foundation to create an accessible, patient-centered rehabilitation hospital, inspired by the visionary spirit of Craig Neilsen’s exemplary life.”

The hospital features state-of-the-art rehabilitation services, including:

  • Smart-technology patient rooms -- Every patient room is fully customizable to an individual’s needs— with tech to encourage activity and promote independence.
  • State-of-the-art gym -- A spacious gym supports both physical and occupational therapy exercise regiments and includes an advanced Zero-G track to help patients regain mobility and learn to walk again.
  • Mobility garage -- The hospital is the only one in the nation with a multi-function garage to help patients learn how to use a wide range of mobility devices — from cars and off-road wheelchairs to hand-powered bicycles.
  • Outdoor therapy terrace and garden -- An invigorating outdoor therapy terrace and the tranquil Beth Hersh Goldsmith garden will host outdoor functionality training in a picturesque Salt Lake Valley environment
  • Digital innovation lab -- It features a mechanical and bioengineering lab where scientists and engineers will work to improve robotic and prosthetic technologies for replacing lost limbs and organ function.

“The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation is dedicated to a future where individuals with spinal cord injuries live full and productive lives as active participants in their communities,” said Ray Neilsen, Craig’s son and co-trustee and chairman of the board of directors of the Foundation. “The University of Utah had a special role in my dad’s life, and we’re thrilled to partner with it to provide such an important service to the community. We know that this hospital will provide support and inspiration for patients and their families for years to come.”

“For nearly 50 years, University of Utah Health’s Rehabilitation Center has been a recognized leader in rehabilitation medicine, education and innovation,” said Michael L. Good, M.D., CEO, U of U Health; Senior Vice President for Health Sciences; and Dean of the School of Medicine. “Thanks to the incredible generosity and partnership of the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, we will continue to provide and in fact further advance leading-edge rehabilitative care for generations to come.”

The hospital is named after business leader Craig H. Neilsen who underwent physical rehabilitation treatment at the University of Utah following a 1985 car accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down with only minimal use of one hand. Prior to the accident, Neilsen was the owner of a thriving construction and real estate development business. When he returned to business after his rehabilitation, he founded Ameristar Casinos, Inc., and thanks to his incredible vision and attention to detail, he steadily built it into a billion-dollar industry-leading enterprise. In 2002, Neilsen established the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, which is the largest private funder of spinal cord injury research, rehabilitation, clinical training, and programmatic support in the United States and Canada, and draws ongoing inspiration from its founder.

In addition to being treated at the University of Utah, Neilsen spent many years at the school as a student, earning an MBA in 1964 and a law degree in 1967. The university also received numerous grants from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation during Craig’s lifetime supporting the Rehabilitation Center and providing scholarships for students with spinal cord injuries. After his passing in 2006, Craig was honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award from the university, the highest honor conferred on a graduate.

The hospital’s interior and exterior spaces reflect an accessible and dignified environment for all patients and their families to promote emotional well-being in addition to physical rehabilitation. Craig Neilsen had a great love of architecture and design and understood how one’s environment positively influences the healing process. Carefully chosen building materials and landscaping incorporate the natural magnificence of the Utah environment into the hospital, providing an inspiring atmosphere for patients and their families as they receive the highest quality rehabilitative care.

“This incredible facility will help us reimagine rehabilitative care by embracing the diverse ideas and skills of the entire University of Utah community,” said Jeffrey Rosenbluth, M.D., the Craig H. Neilsen Presidential Endowed Chair for Spinal Cord Injury Medicine. “Faculty, students and staff with diverse backgrounds in rehabilitation, engineering, computer science, exercise, therapy and design will work side by side with our patients in this collaborative space. These teams will push the boundaries of recovery and quality of life after even the most severe injuries and disease processes.”

About the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation:

The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation is the largest private funder of spinal cord injury research, rehabilitation, clinical training, and programmatic support in the United States and Canada, and draws ongoing inspiration from its founder. The Foundation partners with scientific, charitable and educational organizations conducting spinal cord injury research, training in spinal cord medicine, and supports grassroots organizations providing services to assist individuals affected by spinal cord injury. The Foundation is dedicated to a future where individuals with spinal cord injuries live full and productive lives as active participants in their communities.

rehabilitation physical medicine and rehabilitation