Common ground for the health care professions

Iconic building would become a focal point for Carleton campus

- June 28, 2011

An artist's rendering of the Inter-Professional Health Care Education Building.
An artist's rendering of the Inter-Professional Health Care Education Building.

A new building planned for Dalhousie’s Carleton campus aims to be common ground for students from the Faculties of Dentistry, Medicine and the Health Professions—a place where an aspiring nurse, social worker and dental hygienist could get together for coffee; where a future physician, occupational therapist and pharmacist could work on a simulated medical emergency; where a would-be coach, radiological technologist, dentist and cardiologist could meet and attend a lecture.

In so doing, the deans of those three faculties believe the building—and the focus it will bring to inter-professional learning—has the power to revolutionize health-care education at Dalhousie.

'Health care will be transformed'

“I have every confidence that with the changes we are making, health care will be transformed,” says Will Webster, Dean of the Faculty of Health Professions. “It’s occurring already. There are pockets of it out there in the health care system right now. It’s powerful and that’s where Dalhousie is leading.”

Revitalized health-care education is a key theme of Bold Ambitions, the campaign for Dalhousie.

According to plans, the “Inter-Professional Health Care Education” building, will be situated at the corner of University Avenue and Summer Street, replacing a parking lot. Once constructed, it will become a showcase for Dalhousie and a focal point for Carleton campus. Conceptual drawings show a light-filled, five-storey building that will be constructed to LEED standards. The architects for the project are Moriyama & Teshima Architects of Toronto in association with Barrie & Langille Architects of Halifax.

The design is unique for the university as it focuses on shared spaces and flexible learning environments: lounges, a learning commons and library, food court, fitness room, rooftop patio, event room, simulation centre and classrooms. It’s also interesting that the building is not meant to be a home for any one program or faculty, but a place “for students and faculty members in the health-related fields to come together naturally,” explains Tom Boran, Dean of the Faculty of Dentistry.

The state-of-the-art simulation centre is a significant feature of the building, says Tom Marrie, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. “More and more we want real-world exercises where a team of students has to work together to solve a problem,” he says. In the simulation centre, “students of all stripes” attend to preprogrammed medical scenarios using sophisticated mannequins. The mannequin might be programmed to have suffered a cardiac arrest, for example, or colon cancer.

“Everyone knows what they have to do and they do it,” says Dr. Marrie, who adds the students are observed in action and there’s a review session afterwards to discuss what worked, what didn’t. “When it’s done well, you forget that you’re in a simulated environment.”

'Learn with, from and about each other'

“The idea is that students will learn with, from and about each other to enhance the quality of care they’ll provide once they graduate,” adds Dr. Webster.

Inter-professional learning is already happening at Dalhousie among the three faculties, notably with the Health Mentors program. Introduced last fall, the program links “health mentors,” adult volunteers experiencing a chronic illness, with an inter-professional student team.

Construction costs of the Inter-Professional Health Care Education building are estimated at $35 million, says Ken Burt, vice president finance and administration. The target date for completion is in 2013/14.


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