THE CHALLENGE

The University of North Dakota (UND) School of Medicine and Health Sciences educates almost half of all doctors in the state, placing a great responsibility on the only medical school in North Dakota. It also educates health sciences professionals, such as occupational and physical therapists. The school faced numerous challenges while upholding this responsibility because of its facilities.

Faculty, staff and students were split between multiple buildings, isolated to specific areas. The separation of programs on campus forced those who are a part of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) to collaborate in limited ways.

The lab spaces, for example, proved to be rigid by not allowing for the flexibility needed in such an environment. The work spaces within the labs were also more individualized, given the arrangement of the equipment. Office space for faculty and staff also encroached in the lab area, which limited what could be done.

While the lab space seemed bunched together, the Simulation Center was the opposite. In the past, the center wasn’t attached to the main facility at all. And, it lacked much-needed space for students and faculty.

The solutions needed for the facility weren’t as easy as updating lab equipment or adding new furniture.

“The goal of the new building was not only to accommodate larger classroom sizes, but to educate good, qualified health care professionals,” explained Jon Allen, director of simulation training.

The building also needed to encourage socializing between students from different disciplines, while also bringing the faculty and staff who work in the building together in a collaborative way. University officials recognized this need, which led to their four-pronged plan called the “Healthcare Workforce Initiative.”

The initiative addresses the state’s health care workforce needs, including reducing the burden on disease, retaining more graduates in North Dakota, and improving the health care delivery system.

To achieve its goals, the school needed a vast improvement in its infrastructure, including audiovisual (AV) technology solutions.

“I’m a physician. I’m not an expert in AV,” Dr. Allen said. “AV is really complicated and frankly, way above my head.”

In addition to the help of local and national architects and construction companies, AVI Systems was brought in to help the university realize its goals for the future.

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