New School of Medicine and Health Sciences transforming health care delivery in North Dakota

UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences

January 10th, 2017

A new School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) at the University of North Dakota (UND) is the culmination of years of work by statewide legislators, health care providers, and educators. Designed by JLG Architects, Perkins+Will, and Steinberg, the SMHS responds to the North Dakota Healthcare Workforce Initiative, a strategic plan to train and retain more healthcare practitioners and reduce the state’s overall disease burden. Said Dr. Darrell Kirch, President and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, “This is the #1 medical education facility in the United States.”

In August 2016, the 320,000 SF facility opened its doors to new and returning students. With eight distinct programs—Medical, Medical Laboratory Sciences, Occupational Therapy, Physician Assistant, Physical Therapy, Public Health, Sports Medicine, and Basic Sciences—the SMHS has a long history of progressive teaching methods, and the new building demonstrates commitment to those pedagogies.

Students in the eight programs are reorganized into eight interdisciplinary groups, and each group is given a dedicated space for learning and socializing. Located at opposite ends of the third and fourth floors, these Learning Communities are a configuration of workspaces, study carrels, practice exam rooms, lockers, and lounges.

A state-of-the-art Simulation Center includes 14 patient exam rooms, four simulation suites, and a multi-purpose operating room. An ambulance bay and outdoor staging space allow students to actively experience the scenario of bringing a patient through a corridor to an operating room.

Today’s health sciences students rely on technology to enrich the learning process. Instead of a standard library, a digital and online-focused Library Resources area serves students’ research needs, while a 5,200 SF Learning Hall features distance learning technology so that students can share information with each other, as well as with professionals around the world.

The SMHS made a number of design decisions related to research. Open labs and equipment corridors foster collaboration and the sharing of expensive tools, while specialized research alcoves support unique departmental activities. According to a principal investigator in the basic sciences program, “In the past you could collaborate with maybe four people. Now, here, I can collaborate with twenty.”

All classrooms have at least one transparent wall to maximize daylight and visibility, and as one professor reported, “The light is phenomenal. Students are more alert and classes don’t seem to last as long.” Even the Gross Anatomy Lab enjoys views from its location on the top floor. “I can’t believe they’re letting me be educated in a building like this,” said a student.

At $124 million, the new SMHS is the largest state-funded project in the history of North Dakota.