STAR brings new health sciences building
Construction is slowly winding down on the university’s 272-acre STAR Campus as the first health sciences building is set to open in January.
The university purchased the land from Chrysler in 2009 when the dean of the university’s College of Health Sciences Kathleen Matt came to the university.
When Matt first arrived at the university, she said an outside committee asked her what she wanted to accomplish in her first five years as dean. Because the university has a health-oriented atmosphere, Matt said she wanted to bring everybody together in one building.
Five years later, her goals have become a reality.
“You bring all of these people together in one common space and then you even have space for the clinical people from the community to come in, then all of the great ideas get generated and flow out of that and the students are smack dab in the middle,” Matt said.
The departments that will officially be making the move to STAR Campus include the physical therapy department in its entirety and parts of the kinesiology, applied physiology, bioengineering and nursing programs, Matt said.
Allen Prettyman, director of Nurse Managed Health Center, said he is extremely excited for the move, especially since the program’s current location at McDowell Hall is very small.
“The increased space allows us to expand our services,” Prettyman said. “We can provide the services we currently provide but in a nicer facility and add services that we can’t have because of space restrictions.”
Prettyman said the academic building also allows students to have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience. He said the nurse practitioner graduate and undergraduate students are key members of the team, and the same holds true for the physical therapy program.
One of the most vital things that STAR Campus is trying to emphasize is interprofessional training, Matt said. She said it is about students, nurse practitioners, occupational therapists and exercise physiologists all training together so they can deliver comprehensive, coordinated, integrated care.
“Students will be more intimately connected and learn in a different model under the supervision of our faculty before they go out into their communities,” Matt said. “And at the same time, since these clinics will be open to the communities, we really have the opportunity to sort of bring in these challenges and have our students engage in these solutions.”
The building is also heavily designed around the patients and is open to the public, Prettyman said. He said the most important piece of information members of the community should know is that they can utilize the services there.
Architecturally, the two-story building is welcoming and open with research labs that have windows surrounding it, which allows people to easily see what kind of research is being conducted, Prettyman said.
“The real intent of that building is to make it for the university to engage with the outside community,” Matt said. “To bring the outside community in and then to bring the findings and the research and education that we do as a university and bring that out to the community.”
Associate Dean of Research of the College of Health Sciences Dan Flynn said there will be a blend of research and patient care activities occurring in the building. He said some examples of the research that will be done include cardiovascular health that looks at hypertension and salt intake, and their relations to a person’s health.
There will also be research labs that will look at physical therapy techniques to help patients regain the ability to walk, Flynn said.
“Here, we’re going to have customized labs,” Flynn said. “For example, there will be special treadmills that are built into the foundation that are very sensitive to patient’s movements and weight and can help decide straight out key aspects of their physiology.”
Flynn, Matt and Prettyman were all unable to identify any possible negative sides to the addition of the new STAR Campus. However, one minor initial concern could be the flow of students from main campus to South Campus.
STAR Campus will be located on the south end of campus, near the agricultural school at Townsend Hall. Flynn said he believes this will only be an issue at first and said the transportation group is already looking at it.
Prettyman said having everyone in one location will benefit the university by presenting the opportunity for the university to engage with businesses and partners.
“I think we’ll be able to do things we don’t even know we can do yet,” Prettyman said.
A version of this post appeared in the print edition of The Review on Nov. 26, 2013 headlined “STAR brings new health sciences building.”