Health Sciences Building opens for fall

The new Health Sciences Building is un-missable, and after years of planning, design and construction, it’s finally here.

“She’s just grand, isn’t she?” said Dr. Tia Strait as she beamed up at the three-story building from the ground-floor entrance.

Strait is the dean of Missouri Southern’s school of technology, but lately, her job has been more akin to a tour guide’s. She certainly doesn’t seem to mind, though, as she strolls the halls and points out the new features offered with the Health Sciences building’s completion.

The new Health Sciences Building boasts 85,000 square feet, making it the largest structure on Southern’s campus. It houses training facilities for dental hygiene, kinesiology, radiology, nursing, respiratory care and psychology. It’s also by far Southern’s most technologically advanced building, with Interactive Television classrooms, numerous mannequins for student practice and an atmosphere as real as walking through an actual hospital or dentist‘s office.

“We have the latest and greatest in all our classrooms,” Strait said.

And it wasn’t easy to get the building to that point.

Story continues below

12 years in the making

“We started working on the plans for the Health Sciences Building idea probably back in 1998,” Strait said, “and we kind of worked through that process up until the fall in 2001.”

But the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City had a financial effect all the way to Joplin, and the $13 million Health Sciences Building, which hadn’t yet begun construction, was put on the back burner.

“When 9/11 happened, the economy kind of tanked … a decrease in state revenues forced the governor to cut appropriations to state agencies, which included higher education,” Strait said.

The Missouri Council on Public Higher Education decided to forgo its approved capital improvement projects in Fiscal Year 2001-02 to keep its institutions’ budgets from being decreased. It was more than five years later before the project was resurrected, this time with a new price tag.

The new plans put the building at $19 million. The project also got a new funding source, The Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative, and Strait credits Missouri Speaker of the House Ron Richard, State Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin) and former Southern presidents Julio Leon, Terri Agee and current President Bruce Speck for helping to revive the plans.


High-tech training

From dental hygiene to psychology, the building’s designers strived to bring the newest equipment to the students to best simulate their future work environments.

“We planned it that way,” Strait said. “We worked together to plan not just what we wanted today, but for the future.”

Strait said that for the medical clinics, they were designed after observing equipment in some local clinics, but in some cases the Health Sciences building has more advanced equipment than local hospitals.

“Everything is digital; we’re paperless,” said Erica Little, assistant professor of dental hygiene.

The tech doesn’t come cheap, either. Twenty-two chairs in the ground floor dentist office cost $500,000. Upstairs in an interdisciplinary educational clinic, it costs $20,000 annually to keep 12 computers outfitted with current medical software, a program called NurseSquared.

“We go to great lengths to make sure all of our equipment is up to speed with the clinics we see…and sometimes we’re a little ahead,” Strait said.

Those 12 NurseSquared computers are located in the Health Sciences building’s Simulation Center for Interdisciplinary Clinical Education. The purpose of the Center is to provide an area several medical disciplines can use for training.

“Having so much integrated helps them understand each other’s jobs,” Strait said. “They learn to appreciate each other.”

Besides all the clinical rooms and medical equipment, there are classrooms in the building, too. Several of them have been fitted with Interactive Television, or ITV. The ITV classrooms are used to coordinate with classrooms in Raleigh and Saxton in real time. There are three televisions in the classrooms- one in the front and two in the back.

“The TVs in the back are for the instructors to use so they can see what they’re sending out (and what’s at the other end),” said MSSU technician Kyle Vann, who facilitates delivery of the ITV courses. “No matter what class, it operates the same.”

If there is an equipment malfunction in an ITV class, DVDs of the teachings for that day can be shipped to the students at other campuses.

One thing that can’t fail, though: the view. And walking through the Health Sciences building’s second floor, Strait stops to admire the Southern campus through the windows.

“Look at that view,” she says. “See why I say she’s just grand?”