New center will help MSU health care students hone communication skills

Contact: Terry Denbow, University Relations, (517) 355-2262,

Oct 12, 2004

EAST LANSING, Mich. - A new center that is being dubbed a "flight simulator" for health professions students will be built on the Michigan State University campus.

The new center will help students improve upon the art of communication, as well as help educators assess whether their charges are mastering these skills.

At a recent meeting, the MSU Board of Trustees took the first step in making the Learning Assessment Center a reality by approving the hiring of an architect/engineer firm - Design Plus of Grand Rapids - to do the initial work.

When completed, the center will be what Glenn C. Davis, dean of the MSU College of Human Medicine, calls a "flight simulator" for students.

"The goal of this center will be research into and application of methods of assessment that get at the heart of the skills required of physicians, surgeons and other health care providers," Davis said.

The center will consist of a series of examination rooms, each equipped with video and computer equipment that will allow medical students to practice their communication skills on simulated patients.

The center will also see an increase in sophistication of computer-based software, said Ruth Hoppe, an MSU physician who will serve as the center's director.

"We'll have mannequins with all sorts of technology stuffed into them," said Hoppe, who previously was the college's senior associate dean. "We'll ultimately be able to simulate all kinds of medical and operating room emergencies."

Education within the center, Hoppe said, will focus not just on knowledge, but also proving that the students can put what they learn to practical use.

"Society expects that we educators are doing more than preparing the students to know something," she said. "I think society expects that we're preparing students and we don't let go of them and certify them as competent until they demonstrate at least part of the performances that are important to practice."

"Physician education programs have been challenged to ensure that our graduates possess and incorporate into clinical practice core clinical competencies that include medical knowledge, patient care, interpersonal and communication skills, as well as, in our case, osteopathic philosophy and manipulative medicine," said Gail Riegle, acting senior associate dean of the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine. "The center will provide resources that will assist our efforts to assess these competencies."

The center is the result of a collaborative effort between MSU's health professions colleges - the colleges of Human Medicine, Nursing, Osteopathic Medicine, and Veterinary Medicine - and the Medical Technology Program, which is housed in the College of Natural Science.

"This center will be better by virtue of the involvement of faculty from health professions colleges," Hoppe said. "I think we will be quite unique in having the current mix of health professions in our center."

"Our participation in the center will begin with our nurse practitioners," said Judith Vinson, associate dean of academic affairs for the College of Nursing. "Skills that nurse practitioners need are interviewing skills and the ability to gather information in order to make accurate diagnoses."

" In veterinary medicine, the same principles apply," said Janver Krehbiel, associate dean for academic programs in the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine. "We want to help our students be successful in interactions with the client, along with evaluating the animal patient."

The center will be located on the sixth floor of East Fee Hall.

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