The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth made history on Thursday with the opening of the first immersive virtual reality simulation center in Texas.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony – featuring Dr. Michael R. Williams, chancellor of the UNT System and HSC president, as well as HSC students, faculty and staff – took place to celebrate the new Regional Simulation Center on the HSC campus.
The Regional Simulation Center uses cutting-edge immersive virtual reality technology, in addition to life-like simulation mannequins, multi-functional spaces and more traditional virtual reality. The center’s technology can replicate virtually any health care scenario across multiple disciplines and has uses for both medical students needing to learn new procedures in a low-risk environment and seasoned health care providers looking to hone their skills or acquire new ones.
“The opening of HSC’s new Regional Simulation Center is truly exciting as it is the first immersive virtual reality simulation center in the state of Texas,” Williams says in a statement. “The cutting-edge technology will allow our students and health care providers to practice and learn new skills in the most realistic of environments. This will ultimately benefit patients and increase patient safety. ”
The $ 6.75 million facility is in renovated space on the first floor of HSC’s Gibson D. Lewis Health Science Library at 955 Montgomery St. The new center is also open for training for hospital residency programs, emergency medical service providers, hospital personnel, nursing home staffers, clinical teams, first responders and more.
A host of local stakeholders attended the center’s grand opening event, including state representatives, members of the Fort Worth City Council, and members of the UNT System Board of Regents and UNTHSC Foundation Board.
“This is an incredibly exciting day for the Health Science Center and Fort Worth,” says Michael Crain, a Fort Worth City Council member representing District 3. “The impressive technology here will allow both current and future generations of health care workers to learn and practice the skills they need to improve the overall quality of care in Fort Worth. This is a win for our city. ”
Guests were treated to a tour of the facility, and students were on hand to demonstrate the lab’s many state-of-the-art features. Williams; Jessica Rangel, executive vice president of health systems; Karen Meadows, the center’s director; and Amogh Krishnagiri, a fourth-year student at HSC’s Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, all spoke during a brief ceremony to mark the occasion.
“Simulation has been instrumental in my medical school journey,” says Krishnagiri, whose input, along with other students, was critical in the center’s design. “Having the opportunity to practice skills and complex scenarios in an immersive and safe environment prepared me for those experiences in clinical settings. As a future emergency medicine physician, I will benefit from the many procedural repetitions I was privileged to get in these engaging, informative and fun settings.
“The addition of the HSC Regional Simulation Center to our campus is a huge asset to learners at every level, no matter what their degree or specialty,” he continued. “The attention to detail, focus on flexibility and integration of technology will give HSC an opportunity to redefine what clinical education can be. It was an honor to be a part of the planning process. ”
The center will be open to the public in early July. Before then, the HSC simulation team will be trained by educators from Harvard University’s Center for Medical Simulation, one of the world’s first such facilities. The Harvard team brings more than two decades of experience and expertise to HSC’s staff.
The center is set to deliver comprehensive health care simulation with techniques drawn from multiple disciplines and customized to the level and background of each learner. The lab’s fully immersive virtual reality projection component uses cutting-edge 360-degree cameras that allow staff to transport students into on-the-job scenarios.
In addition to the virtual reality component, the 16,000-square-foot lab contains several key improvements over the former simulation center. The new center features 14 authentic-looking clinic exam rooms; a large, changeable procedural skills suite; a suite designed to look like the inside of a home; several multipurpose “teams” rooms; and plenty of learning lounges, where students can study. Many of the rooms ‘functions can be resized, reconfigured and adapted based on the learners’ needs.
“HSC’s Regional Simulation Center will not only improve health care outcomes and patient safety, but this state-of-the-art facility will also act as a beacon to potential medical school students, tech companies and other entrepreneurs,” said Leonard Firestone, the City Council representative for District 7, which includes HSC’s campus. “The center will send message to business owners that Fort Worth embraces new ideas, emerging technologies and is not afraid to lead. The economic impact of this center could be a game-changer for our city, as HSC strengthens its position as a premier health care institute. ”