First plans for osteopathic school building revealed

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

The planned Arkansas Colleges of Health Education presented the first renderings of the layout of its proposed $60 million college of osteopathic medicine at a meeting of the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority on Thursday (Aug. 21).

Kyle Parker, ACHE president and CEO, presented the plans as an update to the FCRA, which donated the school's 200 acres in what is now known as Chaffee Crossing, across the street from the proposed site of a third Fort Smith high school near Chad Colley Boulevard.

The update was the first glimpse inside preliminary plans for the planned osteopathic school, which has increased from a plan for 60,000 square feet to 100,000 square feet which would house a planned physicians assistant program that could take on its first group of students in 2018, only two years after the planned opening of the osteopathic college.

On the first floor, Parker noted that students would have access to two 200-seat auditoriums, as well as group study areas.

"These are set out for the students to go in. A lot of (teaching) is done in group sessions in medical school. That's where they will do a lot of breakouts, the students themselves," he said.

The first floor will also contain "a library that won't have a book in it," Parker said.

"Everything is totally electronic. There will be access to over 60,000 electronic books and periodicals in here and these are some study areas," he said.

All instructional areas on the first floor, Parker said, would be recorded for reference by students of the osteopathic school, adding a touch of technology that is becoming more and more common in academic settings.

"Everything is recorded, both audio and visual. Everything is recorded and can be brought up on iPads or iPhones, accessible anywhere in the world. All of that can be reviewed in the student study group areas when they are preparing themselves for examinations."

The first floor will also house a cafeteria area, as well as academic and administrative offices and support areas, such as loading areas for cadavers. The second floor will house cooling units where cadavers are stored, as well as the secured lab where only instructors and students will have access due to HIPPA restrictions, which Parker said do not end until an individual has been buried.

"There's 21 tables in here where the donors are dissected, worked on," Parker explained as he described what cadavers would be used for in the learning process.

Instructor offices outline a large portion of the second floor, which also includes an "simulation lab." According to Parker, the four room is the home of life-like mannequins that cost about $90,000 each and allow students to get first-hand experience in administering drugs, setting broken bones and dealing with medical emergencies.

"We'll have five of those - a man, a woman, an infant, a toddler and a woman that has a baby. These are the top of the line because of the gift we got from a family. These will bleed, they'll have heart attacks, they'll break bones, you can actually inject them."

The software to run the mannequins, he said, runs $600,000.

Additional space on the second floor will include exam rooms where students will be examined on their ability to diagnose and treat patients, who will actually be actors from the community hired by the school.

The third floor will house the planned physicians assistant program tentatively scheduled to take its first students in 2018, as well as 7,000 square feet for research and additional space for administrative offices.

Parker presented not only an update on the building of the campus, which he said would be built by two local construction management firms working together (he has declined to name the firms at this time), but also a timeline for construction.

He said bulldozers should start working on the site Sept. 15, which would get the site pad ready for construction in January 2015.

A planned completion date of April 2016 is scheduled, with a move in scheduled for July 2016. Classes for the proposed osteopathic school are tentatively scheduled to begin in Aug. 2016.

The cost of the building parker discussed Thursday is between $21 million and $23 million, which he said ACHE would use cash to pay for. He also said cash reserves had been set aside to meet accrediting agency requirements.

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Around the time construction begins in January, Parker said the school would be prepared to announce its deans. He said many were already hired, though announcements could not be made until the individuals had fulfilled their current contracts at other medical schools.

Once work begins and the school eventually opens, Parker said the impact will be felt with an economic impact of $75 million to $100 million per year.

Final artist renderings could be released within the next seven to 10 days, Parker said, adding that the exterior "skin" of the building was still being designed.

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