The University of Toledo is to break ground Monday on its Interprofessional Immersion Simulation Center, a $36 million facility that will employ 3D virtual reality technology and promote interdisciplinary learning.
Dr. Jeffrey Gold, chancellor and executive vice president for biosciences and health affairs, said UT conceived the idea for the center four years ago and built a small pilot facility to test the concepts and technology it hoped to expand on.
The center, on the UT Health Science Campus, the former Medical College of Ohio, was mainly intended for health-care students, but Dr. Gold said other disciplines, such as visual and performing arts, have begun using the programs there as well.
UT President Dr. Lloyd Jacobs said the simulation center has recorded approximately 2,000 visits a month over the past several months.
Following its success, UT's plans for the larger building expanded even more as the technology evolved.
"The vision for what we are trying to do is to revolutionize education in all of its parts -- undergraduates, graduates, in every field and in every place," Dr. Jacobs said.
The 60,000-square-foot simulation hub will have three floors, each featuring a different technology for students to experience and work in.
The first will be a simulation center where medical students from different disciplines such as doctors, pharmacists, and therapists can work together with simulated patients.
"[The software] can generate life-size models of patients simulated to have certain types of diseases or conditions," said Dr. Gold, who is also dean of the college of medicine and life sciences.
"It can simulate any type of presentation of a baby and they can practice doing that delivery, or they can practice taking out a gall bladder or performing an eye exam."
The second aspect will be a progressive anatomy suite that enables medical students to use fresh tissue from deceased people to practice exams.
Dr. Gold said simulation with fresh tissue is commonplace for health-care workers to test newly developed medical devices and treatments.
"Patient safety is a big goal for the center," he said. "There is a tremendous stress for doctors and nurses if they are learning something new and they don't have a safe environment to practice it in."
The third floor of the center will immerse learners in virtual reality, using a room in which all the walls are ultrahigh-resolution projection systems.
The student will wear 3D goggles with radio frequency transmission so the surrounding environment will move with him or her.
"For example, you could walk through the Louvre or you could experience a symphony orchestra in Vienna," Dr. Gold said.
"You could stand inside a human blood vessel or look at the function of a human heart valve."
Dr. Jacobs said he expects this virtual reality technology to continue to grow and evolve over the years.
"Currently we are able to walk through a human heart," he said. "One of these days [an engineering student] will be able to walk through a car engine. … That will revolutionize how we grasp concepts and how we educate."
The Interprofessional Immersion Simulation Center will be the first in the nation to integrate the three types of simulation centers under one roof, UT officials said.
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