ISU-Meridian sees need for bioskills learning center

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Posted: Friday, January 10, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 5:15 pm, Fri Jan 10, 2014.

Treasure Valley health care providers often have to go out of state for training on medical advances. But development brewing at Idaho State University Meridian Health Science Center could change that.

ISU is exploring the opportunity of building Idaho’s first bioskills learning center in Meridian. The center would be a place for medical companies to train students and practitioners in the latest health care tools and techniques.

“We’ve seen a lot of interest in both facilities that exist here as well as those medical device companies that would spend money to rent the facility,” The CORE Chairman Earl Sullivan said.

The CORE, a coalition of Idaho medical agencies, is a key player in paving the way for a bioskills center.

The benefits of a local center would be multifold, Sullivan said. Not only would it cut down on expenses for local hospitals and clinics — including the cost of sending physicians out of state for training — but it would bring health care providers and medical device companies to Idaho for conferences, boosting tourism in Idaho.

“These (centers) become huge economic engines for an area,” said Robin Dodson, ISU-Meridian advisor to the academic dean and director of pharmacy services.

Visiting practitioners would potentially bring their families, stay in hotels, visit restaurants and explore the Treasure Valley while they’re here for a conference, Sullivan said.

“I believe that this is a great opportunity for our medical community to both keep our economic dollars in the state of Idaho as well as bring both medical and tourism dollars to the state from outside,” he said.

THE DEMAND

Right now, ISU is doing its “due diligence” to make sure a bioskills center is a viable option, ISU-Meridian Associate Vice President Bessie Katsilometes said. The Idaho State Board of Education has given the university approval to seek resources for the center.

Bioskills learning centers across the country are in high demand, Sullivan said.

In October, ISU-Meridian staff members toured the Beaumont Applebaum Surgical Learning Center in Detroit, which is booked through September and hosts more than 1,000 events a year, Dodson said.

“So many of our partners in the Valley here are supportive of what we’re attempting to do, not only with the A&P lab, but also with the bioskills center,” he said.

The bioskills center would tie in with ISU-Meridian’s new anatomy and physiology lab, set to open in January 2015, and to new physical therapy and occupational therapy programs ISU plans to bring to Meridian in 2016.

“The bioskills part was always going to be a part of (the complex) a little bit later on, and what we found working with the various disciplines is there’s probably a great need to have that bioskills facility up and running as fast as we can get (through) the approval process,” Dodson said.

The bioskills center, including the labs for physical and occupational therapy, would be 5,000 square feet and cost an estimated $3 million, Katsilometes said.

The CORE is working to build partnerships and raise financial support.

WHO BENEFITS?

A bioskills center would not only benefit practitioners and college students, Katsilometes said, but training sessions could be broadcast to high schools, colleges and universities across the state.

Students could, for example, compare healthy organs with those affected by fatty tissue or cigarette smoke, she said. Experienced practitioners could learn how to use new surgical tools.

“It really is something that’s much beyond a single university,” she said.

Local professionals in the medical, dental and even veterinarian communities have shown interest, Dodson sad.

MEETING A NEED

ISU-Meridian hopes to offer a physical therapy doctorate degree and an occupational therapy master’s degree by 2016, Katsilometes said.

These programs are offered at the Pocatello campus, but there’s not enough room to meet demand. In the last two admission cycles, according to an ISU report, about 200 people applied to fill 24 to 26 seats in the physical therapy program. Students applying for the occupational therapy program were also turned away.

The need for training in these fields is twofold, Katsilometes said. Not only does the aging population require more services, but practitioners are also aging out of the industry. About a quarter of Idaho physicians are 60 or older, she said.

Expanding the PT and OT programs to Meridian will also open the door for ISU-Meridian to open a physical therapy clinic, providing affordable care to the community and training for students.

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