Rackham renovations for physician assistant program on track for May 2014 deadline

Historically accurate interior design blends with modern needs

by Pamela Young, Published May 31, 2013

YPSILANTI - Eastern Michigan University's new Physician Assistant (PA) Program will relocate to a renovated, historically accurate building by the time the program starts in May 2014.

Rackham Hall, which previously housed the EMU Children's Institute and several other programs, is currently undergoing an interior renovation that promises to be both modern enough to meet the program's needs yet historically accurate to its 1939 design. 

The building's original architecture features art deco tiles on the walls, period light fixtures and original wood paneling. Rackham's upper floor will be entirely renovated during this phase, with additional mechanical and other upgrades to the lower floor.

"I'm very excited about the University's commitment to facility renovations for the physician assistant program," said Jay Peterson, program director. "The building's layout will be very conducive to the diverse educational methods that will be used in our program."

There were specific structural needs for the program that had to be included in the renovations. "We've been working closely with Jay," said Bob Densic, manager of planning and design, at Eastern Michigan. "He has put a lot of thought into how the PA program would fit into this building and he has done it very, very well."

The $3.6 million renovation will include a combination of academic settings such as an advanced lecture-style classroom, small group meeting rooms, rooms to practice clinical skills, a computer lab for testing and a suite of primary care medical office-style examination rooms. Cameras will be available to evaluate students' communication skills.

Innovative teaching methods will include a combination of small group problem-based learning, classroom lecture setting, hands-on procedural training and the use of mock patient exam rooms, said Peterson. The PA faculty offices will also be located close to the student training areas.

In addition, Eastern Michigan's program will have a clinical educational partnership with St. Joseph Mercy Hospital that will create a joint simulation center, a human anatomy cadaver laboratory and clinical rotations experiences for its students.

When renovating a building, the physical plant staff has to plan carefully, said Densic. The entire upper level's interior will be renovated and full building systems, including the electrical service, will be replaced.

"It's a tight construction schedule because everything has to be up and running by May 2014," Densic said. "The key is to anticipate problems beforehand to save time and money."

TMP Associates, an architectural firm in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. and Peter Basso Associates, an engineering firm in Troy, Mich. have been selected for the project. Construction bid documents will be issued the second week of July, with bids due the first week of August. The contract will be awarded the second week in August.

The work will be substantially completed by mid-March, Densic said, and then there will be one month of testing of all systems, such as the fire alarms, electrical, heating and cooling.

Peterson notes that the initial PA class will have 20 students. The program is being developed to teach students using today's technology, such as advanced simulation models, large LCD monitor screens and audience response devices.

"Students will develop clinical decision-making skills during the first year and then practice those skills during clinical rotations during the second year," Peterson said. "We'll also focus on current trends in healthcare while maintaining a foundation in primary care medicine.

"Our faculty will use their unique talents and clinical experiences to teach students the practical aspects of excellent patient care and the importance of a team-based approach to healthcare."


Pamela Young

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