There's a key word in the name of Central Michigan University's newest building under construction: integrated.
The $26 million Center for Integrated Health Studies will empower students from multiple high-demand fields of study to learn and practice together, a best practice in health care education.
And the building itself will connect to the existing Health Professions complex along Preston Street — the Health Professions Building, opened in 2004, and College of Medicine Building, opened in 2012.
A formal groundbreaking is scheduled at 11 a.m. Thursday, April 19, on the south side of the building site.
"This is really a very beautiful but basic and simple design." — Jonathan Webb, facilities management
The existing health complex's main corridor — with its natural light, atrium-like spaces, and cozy nooks for student study and collaboration — will extend through the new two-story, 50,000-square-foot structure.
Site excavation began in March, and building move-in is scheduled for fall 2019.
"It's pretty much a seamless continuation of the existing building," said Tom Masterson, dean of The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow College of Health Professions.
Masterson is most excited about the building's Interprofessional Education Center, which will feature a two-room simulation suite equipped for use with a variety of high-tech clinical mannequins, eight standardized patient rooms for role-playing medical scenarios, and all rooms monitored for observation and feedback.
"The IPE Center is something I've been involved with for close to 10 years in concept," Masterson said. "I think IPE is key to a lot of our programs moving into the future."
He said the college's "maxed out" physician assistant program in particular is expected to grow with the new building.
Other College of Health Professions programs include athletic training, communication sciences and disorders, environmental health and safety, health sciences, physical therapy, and physical education and sport.
The need for health professionals is on the rise nationwide. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 23 percent increase in demand for athletic trainers through 2026 — much faster than average job growth. The anticipated increases are even higher for physical therapists (28 percent) and physician assistants (37 percent).
Masterson said all health professions require interdisciplinary learning. In the clinical world, that approach enables a care team to "share responsibility for the health of the individual," improving the health outcomes of patients and reducing the stress on care providers at risk for burnout.
"Really, the whole building is focused around student collaboration," he said.
The building includes two physical therapy labs, meaning two classes can meet at the same time and interact.
There also will be four flexible classrooms on the second floor, with furnishings that can be arranged for teamwork, and an auditorium with a similarly flexible setup. Faculty and graduate student offices also are included.
Beautiful and basic
Credit goes to Masterson and the college for "really having done their homework on defining their needs," said Jonathan Webb, CMU associate vice president for facilities management.
The result will be a quality facility that gets maximum use out of limited square footage — and fits in with its surroundings.
"The building needs to look like it belongs," Webb said of exterior finishes and architectural features. "This is really a very beautiful but basic and simple design."
It also conserves energy.
"Every time we put up a new building, we make sure it meets sustainability standards," Webb said, citing features such as large windows that let in natural light. "We're always looking to reduce the use of energy and save costs."
Construction will move quickly, Webb said, with steel erected and the building enclosed by the end of 2018.
Meanwhile, the Health Professions Building has new south and north entrances during construction.
"We appreciate all the cooperation from the campus community," Webb said. "There's always a small disruption as we try to make improvements."
The CIHS will be the first new structure on campus since completion of the Biosciences Building in 2016 and an extensive renovation and addition to Grawn Hall in 2017.
The largest payment toward the building, $19.5 million, came from the Michigan Legislature in 2016. The rest of the money came from university reserves.