Triton moves toward health care's cutting edge

Newly renovated health and sciences facility features state-of-the-art technology

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

Doug Olson, Triton College's vice president of academic affairs, was working the touch screen of an Anatomage Table as if it were an iPad when suddenly — after a few minutes of pressing various commands and sliding things out of the way — the digitized image of a real-life cadaver popped up, startling John Lambrecht, Triton's associate vice-president of facilities.

The table is the cutting-edge, 21st-century version of a cadaver lab, but without the formaldehyde fumes and the complications of dealing with an actual body. And it's only one piece among truckloads of state-of-the-art medical equipment being installed in the college's newly renovated health and sciences facility, formally called the "H Building." 

The building, which is set to open for classes Aug. 24, houses a range of programs in areas such as nursing, nuclear medicine, ophthalmology and surgical technology. In addition to the Anatomage Tables, there's also an actual cadaver lab that, by way of a wall-length window, opens to an adjoining classroom where students can observe dissections directly or on television monitors. 

"Very few community colleges have this size of a cadaver lab," said Lambrecht, who noted that the renovations to the building cost about $16 million. They were funded primarily by a state capital grant, which covered 75 percent of the project's total costs. The grant was announced by former Gov. Pat Quinn in February 2014. 

Lambrecht said the 70,000-square-foot building achieved a silver LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] certification. It also features a brand new generating plant that's separate from the facility's usable space. 

"We wanted to replicate a hospital experience for students in the program," said Olson, adding that, with today's technology, that experience has become much more reliant on digital simulation and flexible learning environments. 

The desks in classrooms are on wheels; biology labs are 'dry' and stocked with electronic learning equipment, rather than moldy petri dishes, which allows them to be used for other things, such as English lectures; and instructors can now perform open-heart surgery on a touch screen, with images transmitted to projectors for the whole class to see while sitting in cushioned, ergonomically perfect Herman Miller Sayl chairs. 

"These are gesture projectors," said Lambrecht, pointing at what appeared to be a regular white marker board in a first-floor computer lab. "When the projector is projecting, you go up there, use your finger or pencil cap, and you can write on the actual white board as it projects onto that image." 

"Some of the smart boards will actually allow you to go up with a QR code, snap it and then the notes that are on the board will appear on your cellphone," said Olson. 

And then there are the overhead lights in the replica surgical theaters on the second floor, which also houses several rooms stocked with replica hospital beds, in addition to replica hospital rooms. 

"Some hospitals in this area don't even have these," Olson said of the overhead lights.

The H Building's transformation coincides with what amounts to a virtual construction boom at the River Grove institution. A multitude of other projects are in the works as part of the school's $53 million Campus Renewal Project — a roughly $14 million renovation to the east athletic complex is scheduled to be completed in December. The project also includes modernizing the student center and child development center, among other capital improvements. 

Lambrecht said Triton sold bonds in September 2014 to fund the Renewal Project and that the bonds will be fully repaid "by direct funds from the college."

But the new construction shouldn't affect tuition rates, said Olson and Lambrecht.  

"We had a tuition schedule we approved five years ago. We showed a tuition increase every year for the past five years. This is our fifth year, so it's not really any [impact]," Olson said. 

"There's no guarantee there won't be a tuition increase in the next five years; we never know what can happen with the state […] but there won't be a tuition increase associated with the bond sale," Lambrecht said.

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com 

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