The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday December 8th

Duke approves plans for new medical school building

As many UNC-system schools suffer from a lack of funding, Duke University approved plans to build a new facility for its medical school.

The university’s Board of Trustees passed plans last week to build a $53 million Learning Center designed to accommodate a team-oriented experience, which university officials say is necessary in today’s medical world.

So far, the building fund has $37 million in donations — $35 million was initially granted by The Duke Endowment, and $2 million is from university alumni and other donors.

Active fundraising for the building will begin after the groundbreaking on Oct. 15, while construction will begin in 2011 and is predicted to be completed in 2013.

Dr. Nancy Andrews, dean of Duke Medical School, said in an e-mail that she hopes the incoming class of 2012 will be able to spend part of their first year in the new building.

Andrews said the Learning Center is being built at a time when changes in medical education require diverse teaching methods.

“Traditional classrooms are no longer optimal,” Andrews said.

The new building will have advanced technology, such as simulation labs, and it will provide more space for team-oriented projects.

Medicine is moving toward a team-based health care approach — a factor the planners have accounted for by creating open and inviting spaces, Andrews said.

Sandra Greene, professor of the practice of health policy at UNC, said the idea of team-based care is not a new one. This approach is used in health care in rural North Carolina, she said.

“It’s to the benefit of patients to bring in multiple experts,” Greene said. “With technology, it’s hard to expect an individual provider to have in-depth expertise and knowledge to rely on.”

Andrews said the Learning Center is designed to cater to the future of medical education.

“My vision is for this building to be open and welcoming to all learners on our campus,” she said. “I anticipate that it will have greater impact on recruiting students.”

Karen McCall, spokeswoman for the UNC School of Medicine, said she didn’t think Duke’s new medical building would take away prospective applicants to UNC’s medical school.

“We have so many people applying for our med school that I don’t think it will have a significant impact,” McCall said. “We still feel like we’re at the cutting edge, especially in the surgical field.”

While Duke is planning an entire floor of its new building for simulation purposes, UNC has had a similar program for five years.

UNC plans to replace it’s main medical school building — Berryhill Hall — and to implement new medical facilities. But they are on hold due to a lack of state fiscal funding.

Unlike Duke, which has a large endowment, most of UNC’s funding comes through the state.

“We don’t anticipate new funding coming in anytime soon,” McCall said.

Contact the State & National Editor at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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