Health-science complex surprisingly high-tech

Ribbon-cutting photo

GROSSMONT COLLEGE (Press Release) – An impressive array of demonstrations of everything from high-tech mannequins filling in as faux patients to a mock crime scene replete with a murder “victim” slumped over a living room sofa capped the grand opening Friday, Sept. 17, of Grossmont College’s new health and sciences complex, almost two years to the day after a groundbreaking ceremony at what was then little more than a large dirt lot.

“I absolutely love this building,” Grossmont College President Sunny Cooke said. “The mixing of education, simulation, training, exploration, research, hands-on learning and technology-intensive experiences is unlike that found in any other building on this campus.”

The lifelike mannequins that are programmed to respond as patients to the prodding of nursing students is but one feature of the facility chockfull of learning labs, each lending its own twist to real-world  instruction. A casting room for the orthopedic technology program. A mock apartment for students in the occupational therapy assistant program.   A blood-spatter room for forensic technology students to analyze blood drops. A laser photography room for bullet trajectory analysis.  A rooftop deck for astronomy students and star-gazers.  Simulated ICU patient stations with ventilators to train respiratory therapy students. Sound booths and a therapy room simulating a clinical setting for students seeking careers as speech-language pathology assistants.

These are among the multiple learning labs inside the $35 million complex, the last completely new building at Grossmont College to be constructed with funds from the 2002 passage of Proposition R, the $207 million facilities bond measure, and state bonds.

The 52,000-square-foot, two-story facility houses science laboratories, classrooms and offices for additional health professions programs: cardiovascular technology and anesthesia technology, as well as instructional space for physics, astronomy and physical science.

“What goes on inside these buildings is the key to the future,” Chancellor Cindy L. Miles said to the estimated 275 people in attendance at the mid-morning celebration. “Every student who attends classes in this building will have learning opportunities that wouldn’t have been possible in the old facilities.”

Industry partnerships are critical to the career technical programs inside the facility, Miles said, drawing attention to a long list of names in the event’s program of institutions, organizations, individuals, businesses and law enforcement entities from throughout the region. 

Governing Board Vice President Deanna Weeks said the new complex features the latest teaching tools and equipment to provide realistic, hands-on learning in the labs and classrooms designed to mimic real-world environments.

“Thousands of students will launch their careers based on the knowledge they gain in this building, whether they become nurses, forensic technicians, respiratory therapists, astronomers or a host of other jobs in health and science,” she said.

Weeks noted that the facility was built because of East County voters’ confidence in the institution and in the knowledge that their tax dollars would be well spent.

“As long as the community sees you are spending money wisely, they are willing to help,” she said, referring to the district’s decision eight years ago to seek public support for the bond measure that has resulted in six new or remodeled buildings at Grossmont College and five at Cuyamaca College.

“Conservative fiscal management has always been a hallmark of this district and in these tough financial times, it’s more important than ever.”

Rebecca Handley, a respiratory therapy instructor,  praised the faculty at the college for igniting a spark in her own past as a Grossmont student, which eventually led to a career and ultimately to a passion for student learning and success.

“Now my passion to help others is burning with a new fuel,” she said. “That new fuel is our beautiful new health science building…we are giving to our students more than just a glimpse of healthcare in the 21st century. We are making it real. We are making it meaningful. We are showing our students what a real collaborative effort among healthcare professionals looks like through a multi-disciplinary approach to patient healing.”

Forensic technology instructor Tina Young said the new lab and adjoining rooms for studying bullet trajectory, blood spatter patterns and processing crime scenes are critically needed because of technological advances in the profession and will offer an advantage to students pursing criminal justice careers.

“Our new forensic laboratory will provide outstanding learning opportunities for our students, as well as professional development opportunities for local law enforcement agencies,” she said. “Our graduates are some of the best trained in the field.”

Also speaking at the ceremony were nursing student Elizabeth Austel and physics student Justino Calangi, who spoke glowingly of the new facility.

“The transition from the learning environment to the real workplace can be a huge and overwhelming leap,” Austel said. “This building narrows that gap considerably. The ICU here looks and feels like a real ICU, realism evident in every environment we find ourselves learning in here.”

Calangi, an international student from Macau who is transferring to the University of California, Berkeley, in the spring, said the building’s features such as the spacious computer lab and the inviting study spaces are motivational. 

“This fantastic building makes students want to study,” he said. “I can’t even describe how much this means to me, as an international student, and what it will mean to the students to come.”

Designed by Architects Mosher Drew Watson Ferguson, the complex consists of two wings connected by an open courtyard, with an atrium and floor-to-ceiling walls of glass with an unobstructed view of the bucolic hills and open preserve that abut the campus.

The complex also includes a health sciences computer lab and large lecture hall to accommodate high-demand classes, guest speakers and health seminars. A rooftop astronomy observation deck with elevator access and permanent telescope mounts is another of the facility’s features designed with community involvement in mind.

The astronomy and physical sciences department, which designed the rooftop platform, intends to offer a community-oriented astronomy class and what it calls “star parties.” A portable planetarium is designed to benefit astronomy students and to spark public interest in the cosmos.  In addition to the rooftop astronomy deck, the new facility provides two general labs, a computer lab and a holography lab as dedicated space for the department, a big improvement over the single lab and tiny holography lab previously in place.

Ron Asbury, chair of the Prop. R Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, noted that the facility’s construction was closely observed by the group, which toured the building four times while it was being built. He praised the excellent planning that went into the complex, noting that the project had very few change orders, well below the industry average.

“To date the change order rate is approximately 1.15 percent, significantly below the industry standard and well below the contingency we had for projected change orders. That keeps costs down and adds to the efficiency of the construction process. I can assure the public that tax dollars were well spent on this project.

“The voters of East County made a very wise choice entrusting this district with their tax money. We, as an oversight committee, have had independent fiscal and program audits conducted and they have shown that projects are completed under a program that is well managed and efficient.”

With the health and sciences complex completed, next on the Prop. R agenda are the Grossmont College Student and Administrative Services/Griffin Center Renovation due for completion in winter 2011, and the expansion and remodel of Cuyamaca College’s library, expected to be completed in the near future.

Preceding provided by the Grossmont Cuyamaca Community College District