Idaho Business Review - ICOM seeks to build ‘medical school of the future’

Construction of what is intended to be Idaho’s first medical school is on budget and three weeks ahead of schedule, now with a planned completion data of sometime in May 2018.

“It could not be going better,” said Robert Hasty, founding dean and chief academic officer of the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine (ICOM). The school is a for-profit, privately held facility located next to the Idaho State University Meridian Health Science Center.

The $34 million project has a guaranteed completion date of June 12, 2018, and the construction company of Engineered Structures Inc. (ESI) is under a Construction Management at Risk (CMAR) delivery method. “If they don’t finish on time, they give us a refund,” Hasty explained.

“At the stage we’re at right now, the steel structure is up and we’ve started framing inside the building,” as well as installing infrastructure systems such as electrical and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), said Chris Wilson, director of facilities and project manager, in early September. “We’re shelling the outside of the building and getting the interior closed in before winter so we can continue working inside and it doesn’t affect the schedule.”

The osteopathic medical school is being built next to the Idaho State University Meridian Health Science Center, which offers more than 30 undergraduate and graduate programs including online degrees. The complex is the home of the L.S. Skaggs Pharmacy Complex and the L.S. & Aline W. Skaggs Treasure Valley Anatomy and Physiology Laboratories. Photo by Patrick Sweeney.

The school was in the position of needing to figure out what it meant to have a “medical school of the future.” “We’re looking at a medical school that’s going to be here 40 to 60 years,” Hasty said. “What will the curriculum look like 10 to 30 years from now?” To do that, the staff looked at the evidence behind higher education now.

For example, there is the notion that physical connections are going to be replaced by technology. “That’s not the case,” Hasty said. “In our lifetimes, the need for people to get in close proximity to learn is going to be there.” Similarly, studies have indicated that where adults learn best is in an 8-1 student-faculty ratio, he said, which led to the school designing a series of small group rooms throughout the facility. It also includes a simulation room lab that lets students practice on virtual patients. “We have a lab that has other people looking at our floor plans and drooling over it,” he said. “It’s safer to make a mistake on a simulated patient.”

While the facility had last year been considering going for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, it has decided not to do so. Doing so would make the school less affordable, said Hasty, who also pointed to a 2014 Forbes article that said LEED-certified buildings are often less energy-efficient than uncertified ones.

“ICOM will be an energy-efficient building and we have been thoughtful to avoid unnecessary costs that would drive up our tuition and indebtedness for our future students,” Hasty said through a public relations representative.

Chris Wilson (center), project manager at the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine under construction in Meridian, speaks at the construction site with ESI Superintendent Mike Tsu (left) and Dr. Robert Hasty, founding dean and chief academic officer for the planned medical school. Photo by Patrick Sweeney.

The building will also feature a coffee shop with a lounge and 20-foot windows where adult learners, faculty, and staff can eat and talk together. There are no dedicated faculty or staff lounges. “The literature says that when adult learners get a chance to interact with faculty and staff, those are extra learning encounters,” Hasty said. “It gives us the chance to develop professional behaviors in student positions.” And it also provided a useful screening device for potential staff. “Somebody who doesn’t want to share their space with students, this isn’t the right place for them,” he said.