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Miami University’s new health building will provide hands-on learning across disciplines

Construction is nearly complete on Miami's newest academic building, the Clinical Health and Wellness Building.
Construction is nearly complete on Miami's newest academic building, the Clinical Health and Wellness Building.

Kaylin Loncar is used to being in the basement.

Each semester, the sophomore speech pathology and audiology major has at least one class in a windowless room on the lowest floor of Bachelor Hall, home of Miami University’s speech pathology and audiology department.

“It’s just all the way at the bottom,” Loncar said. “It’s very dark, very gloomy. We never have windows.”

Not that it’s not nice, she said, you could have a worse classroom. But she’s ready for a change of scenery, and maybe some natural light.

Luckily, next year, both the department and the Speech and Hearing Clinic will move above ground and across campus to the university’s new Clinical Health and Wellness Building.

A space for collaboration

The new building, which sits just south of Nellie Craig Walker Hall near the Rec, will bring together Miami’s clinical and academic health departments and services.

In addition to the speech pathology department and clinic, the new building will be the new home for Miami’s Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) program and its new Master of Medical Science Physician Associate (PA) Studies program launching next year. Miami’s clinical health departments, including Student Health Services (SHS) and the Student Counseling Service (SCS), will also move to the building next fall, as well as the Office of Student Wellness.

Steve Large, Miami’s assistant vice president for Student Life - Health and Wellness, is excited about the prospect of clinical and academic branches working together.

“[The building] will hopefully provide some opportunity for partnership and programming,” Large said. “And particularly, I wonder about how the students within those academic departments might make use of the services themselves … Those are some pretty demanding fields of study, and I imagine those students could experience stress or might have a need to engage in the services themselves.”

The building is designed as three separate wings connected by a central “ribbon,” Large said. The ribbon connects the academic, clinical and office wings together and offers natural light and a shared space for everyone.

“The building is all about collaboration, and the design of the building reflects that,” Large said. “The whole point is for people and disciplines to encounter each other.”

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Speech pathology and audiology program moves out of the basement

Speech pathology and audiology majors already have plenty of experience encountering the Speech and Hearing Clinic. In the basement of Bachelor, Loncar said they have to go through the clinic to get to the bathroom, and she can hear kids through the walls having speech therapy sessions during class.

“I kind of like it because I can always hear speech therapy stuff going on,” Loncar said. “I’ll hear kids talking which is kind of cool, but it’s kind of hard when you’re in class [trying] to focus and you hear a kid in the hallway.”

The new building will put some space between the classrooms and the clinic, and Loncar is hoping for more room within the clinic itself as well. Right now space is tight, and she has to compete with parents and other students to get her 24 hours of speech therapy observation in before graduation.

Maddie Webber, a sophomore speech pathology and audiology and pre-med double major, is hoping the new building will be more accessible for the clinic’s patients.

“Our sound booths, they’re very small,” Webber said. “If we did have a patient in a wheelchair, we wouldn’t really be able to get them inside the booth all the way … My biggest hope for the new building is at least one bigger booth so that we can be accommodating.”

Interim Department Chair Donna Scarborough said the department has been involved with the building’s planning from the beginning. The clinic is moving to the third floor, she said, and will have more space to offer additional services.

While both the speech pathology department and clinic are next to each other already, Scarborough said she’s excited to work with other academic departments in the new space.

“I'm hopeful … that we will be able to have some more spontaneous collaboration than we do right now,” Scarborough said. “Right now, everything has to be planned and exact, like every collaboration that we have … but by being in the same space or shared space. I'm hoping that we can grow in ways that we don't even know yet.”

Nursing program gets consolidated

Photo by Jake Ruffer | The Miami Student

Students are now able to enjoy brand-new facilities at Miami's Student Wellness Center, but vacancies in Student Counseling Services may cause individual appointments to be scheduled out.

The university’s nursing program will also be relocating into the new building.

The program, which was re-established on the Oxford campus in 2018, is outgrowing its space in Pearson Hall. Stephanie Nicely, interim chair of the nursing department, said the Oxford campus received over 2,000 nursing applications for the fall 2023 semester.

“When we started the Oxford cohort, we were admitting 80 students,” Nicely said. “We upped that this last academic year and ended up with like 125 [students], and this upcoming academic year, our target is between 140 and 144 [students].”

In Pearson, students have access to a fully operational nursing resource center, which is a replicated patient room with hospital beds and IV equipment, and two simulation centers, which imitate nursing care settings. Those resources will move to the new Clinical Health and Wellness Building with the addition of five more simulation labs, an anatomy lab, a cadaver lab and an innovation lab, where students can learn from live-streamed surgeries at hospitals off-campus.

Jenna Parry, a junior nursing student at the Oxford campus, was excited when she found out about the new building.

“I think it’s going to be nice to have our space consolidated and have a space to ourselves because we’re so spread around campus right now,” Parry said.

Although Parry has had labs in Pearson Hall, she has also had classes in Boyd Hall, Laws Hall and other miscellaneous buildings on campus. Parry said the two simulation classrooms aren’t practical for the department’s size, and she hopes the new space will help the program continue to expand.

“My cohort accepted 80 [students], and it grows each year,” Parry said. “I think having more space will allow for more students and growth overall.”

Physician associate program is introduced

A new academic program is coming along with the new building: Miami’s 27-month PA program.

Dr. David DeLaet, a Miami alumnus and assistant medical director for the new program, said they’re welcoming an initial cohort of 20 students this summer. Unlike the other academic programs that the building will house, the PA program will call the Clinical Health and Wellness Building its first home.

“To have a physical space like this, the Clinical Health and Wellness Center that we're going to have is quite unique … Our students will be able to not only be in the classroom and have a number of laboratories, to work on technical skills, but also diagnostic skills,” DeLaet said.

Among the resources for students will be Anatomage tables which let students virtually explore three-dimensional renderings of bodies rather than working on cadavers. The building will also have labs that simulate hands-on clinical experiences and places to practice skills like suturing and collecting blood samples.

PA students won’t, however, be providing care in the clinical areas of the building, which DeLaet said would be a conflict of interest. They will, however, have plenty of opportunities to work with students in the other academic programs.

“[The shared space] certainly will afford us the opportunity for our students … to learn ways in which we can collaborate across the departments, to one, not only enhance academic learning, but two, demonstrate to the students the collaborative spirit of working in healthcare,” DeLaet said.

The building will open in May with the PA program moving in soon after. All other programs will follow by August.