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Future health care professionals are 'home at last'

Sept. 15, 2005

KALAMAZOO--In its 30 years of existence, Western Michigan University's nationally renowned College of Health and Human Services has never had a physical home of its own. That has just changed.

A high-tech, 200,000-square-foot building was completed for the college this summer and dedicated Sept. 15. It brings, for the first time, all of the college's health and human services programs together in one location. Some of the most sophisticated labs and classroom facilities in the nation are part of the new facility on WMU's Oakland Drive Campus. The labs are devoted to such areas as biofeedback, blindness and low-vision studies, orthotics, and motion research.

The cost of the entire project was more than $50 million and was funded by the state of Michigan as well as by a variety of cash and equipment gifts that included many from West Michigan's leading health care organizations. A major grant from the National Institutes of Health also supported construction.

"Completion of this new building places us near our Unified Clinics and brings all our academic programs together in one location for the first time," says Dr. Janet Pisaneschi, dean of the college. "Our faculty now work in state-of the-art laboratories and are in close proximity to one another, which will augment their collaborative work and interdisciplinary research. The quality of our programs, already superb, can only increase as a result, and our ability to serve the state and nation will continue to grow."

Designed by the architectural firm SmithGroup of Detroit, the four-story building is perched atop a hill along Oakland Drive on land formerly used by the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital. The building offers a panoramic view of the University's West Campus and establishes a modern presence designed to be in keeping with the traditional architecture of the psychiatric hospital and WMU's East Campus. During construction, every effort was made to preserve the area's park-like setting.

Included in the new facility

State-of-the art laboratories and classrooms with the latest technology in teleconferencing.

Physician assistant skills area complete with a $300,000 simulated patient and examination room.

Nursing suite complete with hospital beds donated by Stryker Medical that allows students to work in a hospital-like setting.

Braille library and blindness and low vision testing rooms.

An "activities for daily living room" that lets students prepare for helping patients work on daily skills.

Three computer labs, as well as multi-media and distance learning equipped classrooms and faculty offices

A 100-seat lecture hall.

There's also an inviting eatery called the Bella Vita Cafe, a greenhouse-like lounge area complete with a "wintergarden" of lush vegetation and a babbling fountain nestled beneath a four-story sandstone-lined stairway.

The college's emphasis on sustainable and renewable materials is reflected throughout the building. Features include cork flooring and motion-activated lights, heating and cooling. Rice paper between sheets of glass provides translucent windows along hallways.

WMU's College of Health and Human Services was established in 1976, although the oldest of its programs dates back to the 1920s. The college includes the departments of Blindness and Low Vision Studies, Occupational Therapy, Physician Assistant, and Speech Pathology and Audiology as well as the schools of Nursing and Social Work. The college also offers programs in alcohol and drug abuse, holistic health care and interdisciplinary health services and a doctoral degree in interdisciplinary health studies. More than 1,200 students are enrolled in the college's programs and the student body is almost evenly split between undergraduate and graduate students.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

WMU News
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