University campuses are often embedded in urban centers where space is at a premium, and UCSF is no exception.
So last year, when funds became available to support new programs focused on the medically underserved and on telemedicine, rather than try to build a new structure on a cramped footprint, UCSF officials began scouting for space in existing buildings.
As it so happens, since 2005, UCSF has been exploring the idea of using space in the Kalmanovitz Library on the Parnassus campus, where digital collections are gradually replacing physical volumes.
Now the building’s second floor is being transformed into a state-of-the-art “matrix of learning,” where UCSF students can hone clinical skills using lifelike patient simulators (or even so-called standardized patients – actors playing the role of a patient), receive training in telemedicine and engage in valuable interprofessional collaborations.
The 22,000-square-foot Teaching and Learning Center will consist of three functional areas: technology-enhanced classrooms; a student technology commons; and a training center that will provide instruction in telemedicine, thus expanding the educational services currently offered by the Kanbar Center for Simulation and Clinical Skills Education, which is temporarily located at the Mount Zion campus.
Faculty and staff from all four professional schools, Student Academic Affairs and the library worked together to design the new center, and its location is a response to the rising demand for easy access to the latest education technologies, said Gail Persily, the library’s director of education and public services.
“The Teaching and Learning Center is a great fit for us,” Persily said. “It extends the library’s existing computer-based educational services and creates a centralized campus home for technology-enhanced education at UCSF.”
UCSF educators have planned a space in which “users flow through the three areas in a way that facilitates learning,” said Kevin H. Souza, MS, assistant dean for medical education at the School of Medicine, who is helping spearhead the project.
For example, Souza said, a group of students in one of the new classrooms could watch a real-time broadcast of a mock doctor-patient interaction taking place in the simulation center, and discuss the scenario with the role players immediately afterward. Then, while waiting to participate in their own simulation activity, students could get some studying done in the technology commons.
“The University has been pushing to create an education center for a long time,” Souza said. “This space will combine interprofessional learning, simulation and telemedicine training in a way that I think is unique in the United States.”
The center is scheduled to open in January 2011, and the $22 million construction cost is being funded by the state through Proposition 1D, a 2006 voter-approved education bond that placed special emphasis on improving health care for underserved populations in California.
The mock exam rooms in the center will be constructed in a manner similar to a television broadcast studio, including a powered ceiling grid that will allow microphones and lights to be moved around easily, transforming the room from “an ER one day to an OR the next day,” Souza said. The rooms will also feature body-part simulators and full-size simulation mannequins with realistic human anatomies and physiology – tools that are currently housed in the Mount Zion simulation facility.
In addition to refining their procedural techniques, students will be able to use high-definition videoconferencing to practice telemedicine – an increasingly vital skill, as California’s patient population continues to grow and its doctor population shrinks.
By teaching students how to successfully implement telemedicine, the center will prepare the next generation of health professionals to better serve all patients and help reduce the health care gap between well-served and underserved communities, Souza said.
“Wide adoption of telemedicine as a way to bring UCSF specialty care to rural and underserved populations can’t happen until we teach tomorrow’s health care professionals what it is and how to use it,” said Joseph Castro, PhD, vice provost of Student Academic Affairs and special assistant to the chancellor. Castro has been instrumental in ushering in wide-ranging improvements to UCSF’s classrooms, equipment and technology to improve the teaching and learning experience.
The center’s goals align closely with UCSF’s mission under Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann’s support of the ethical imperative of simulation. The landmark 1999 Institute of Medicine report, To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System, stated that more than 44,000 people die each year as a result of medical errors that could have been prevented. Simulated clinical activities have since become a common way to provide a safe environment where health care professionals can practice skills before they work with real patients.