MSU preparing to open med schools Secchia Center in GR

August 6, 2010
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Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine is planning public tours and a gala for next month to celebrate the opening of the Secchia Center on the Medical Mile.

Staff members and 94 third- and fourth-year students, assigned to local hospitals, have been using the building for about a month, even as The Christman Co. crews and subcontractors continue to work on the finishing touches.

The 180,000-square-foot, $90 million building — seven stories, plus underground parking and a yet-to-be-finished enclosed rooftop garden — features spectacular views of Grand Rapids.

“You can actually see all the way to Byron Center, the hills out there — so awesome,” said Assistant Dean, External Relations Jerry Kooiman of the view down South Division Avenue from a student study center.

Activities marking the Secchia Center opening

3 p.m. Aug. 29, DeVos Performance Hall: Matriculations and White Coat Ceremony. Dean Marsha D. Rappley welcomes 200 first-year medical students and their families.
5 p.m. Sept. 10, Secchia Center: Ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony, by invitation only.
9 a.m.-noon Sept. 11, Secchia Center: Public open house and tours.
6:30 p.m. Sept. 14, Secchia Center: “Paint the Town Green” black-tie gala. Tickets are $200 each and available by calling 234-2806. The money raised will fund first-year student scholarships, research and instructional technology.

Senior Director of Advancement Susan Lane said that the building was constructed without public money. It was named for benefactor Peter Secchia, an MSU alumnus and Grand Rapids businessman who donated $10 million. With a $50 million fundraising goal, Lane said that the final public phase aims to come up with $5 million to match a pledge of up to $5 million from Amway co-founder Richard DeVos.

So far, $2.8 million has been raised toward the match, she said.

Partners include Spectrum Health, Van Andel Institute, Saint Mary’s Health Care, Grand Valley State University, Grand Action and The Right Place Inc.

“The entire building was built without any state money, and it’s very much being looked at as a national model for accomplishing that,” Lane added. “People are visiting us from other universities to say, ‘How did you do that?’”

The school is connected to neighboring medical office buildings, the VAI, the Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion and the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital by elevated walkways.

At the building’s core is a four-story atrium, where natural light flows down to bathe a seating area with large windows.

“It was designed to bring the spaces together, to create that sense of community. The challenge is, in a seven-story building, that you’re going to lose that connection between the people and the roles and functions that you want,” said Assistant Dean for Facilities Elizabeth Lawrence.

She said the college will seek gold certification under the U.S. Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.

The general color scheme includes soft beige, gray and yellow with splashes of orange and the occasional touch of purple or blue. Much of the furniture was supplied by Steelcase Inc.’s health care furniture division, Nurture, which designed a few pieces specifically for the Secchia Center, such as a computer desk used in simulated examination rooms.

“Steelcase, and Nurture in particular, were great, great partners,” Lawrence said. 

The school features two 125-seat auditoriums and two 65-seat lecture rooms. The rooms include technology that allows real-time interaction with the school’s 200 first- and second-year medical students in East Lansing, as well as automated screens, microphone, recording devices and connections for students’ laptops and instructional computers.

Tucked in at every chance are smaller rooms for groups to carry out problem-based assignments.

Only a few traditional classrooms were created for the 200 first- and second-year medical students who will be the inhabitants. That accommodates the MSU school’s problem-based learning approach, in which groups of students apply lessons from classroom and textbook to medical issues.

Medical students provided input into the building’s design, said Richard J. Temple, architect and senior project manager for URS Corp., the architect of record. Ellenzweig of Cambridge, Mass., was the design architect and The Christman Co. provided construction services. Focus groups also include faculty and staff.

The med school has more than 300 third- and fourth-year students assigned to seven Michigan locales, added Dr. Margaret Thompson, associate dean of the Grand Rapids campus.

It includes office space for staff as well as office condo areas for the doctors serving as instructors.

An entire floor is devoted to simulations, in which “standardized patients” — specially trained actors — interact with the student doctors, giving instructors a chance to evaluate their clinical and personal skills via video and two-way mirrors, Thompson said. One empty room can be turned into a hospital room, a nursing home or a residential setting. There also are an operating room and exam rooms for simulated exercises, as well as automated mannequins.

“They simulate things like cardiac arrest,” Thompson said. “And there are monitors that will show the heart stopping. You can put a blood pressure cuff on the mannequin and the blood pressure is going down to zero. The mannequins can even talk.”

The simulations also provide an opportunity for educational collaboration with students in nursing programs and other health professional programs at GVSU, Ferris State University and Grand Rapids Community College.

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