Health academy opens doors

(Edmonton) “The Edmonton Clinic Health Academy is the realization of an extraordinary vision—a building that is purpose-built to support the transformation of health service, education and research,” says Jane Drummond.

In 2004, Drummond, vice-provost for the Health Sciences Council, and the Office of the University Architect set out to design a leading, state-of-the-art enabler of integrated, patient-centred clinic care, education and research. Seven years later, on time and on budget, the Edmonton Clinic Health Academy is opening its doors to thousands of students “who will lead the health-care transformation called for by so many policy-makers, educators, practitioners, patients and communities,” said Drummond.

During the coming weeks, more than 1,400 faculty and staff from 12 academic groups representing six faculties will move into their new spaces in the academy, says Drummond, and that “everyone who works or studies in the building is part of a new way of thinking and doing.”

“This is an approach,” says Drummond, “that allows all of us—researchers, teachers, students and the wider community—to more fully access the very best of the U of A’s research and education capacities by adding one critical tool. That tool is collaboration,” she says. “We are not replacing the tools in the toolkit; we’re adding this to the other excellent tools that are already there.”

Canada’s population is getting older, with the 65-and-older demographic growing most rapidly. Significant advances in the understanding and treatment of chronic illness mean more people can manage these conditions and live longer, healthier lives. At the same time, jurisdictions all over Canada are exploring new ideas about health-care accessibility, quality and sustainability.

“The approach that holds the best promise for the future is interdisciplinary health research, dovetailed with the needs of the community and inter-professional, team-based education supported by simulation technology,” says Martin Ferguson-Pell, dean of the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine and chair of the Health Sciences Council. “The Edmonton Clinic Health Academy delivers both, and positions the University of Alberta at the very leading edge of health-care transformation in Canada.”

Three spaces in the health academy highlight the philosophy behind academic programming for the building: the Health Sciences Education and Research Commons, the Interdisciplinary Health Research Academy Discovery Mall and the Student Commons. “The research commons comprises 18,000-square-feet of the most advanced functional learning space in North America,” says Sharla King, assistant professor in the Faculty of Education and director of the research commons. “This space was designed to support collaborative team education using state-of-the-art simulation technology.”

To take a virtual tour of the ECHA, click here.

Kathy Kovacs Burns is the associate director of Health Sciences Council and interim director of the Interdisciplinary Health Research Academy. “The Discovery Mall will be easily reconfigured research space,” she says. “There will be a shared data registry capable of storing and mining massive amounts of information from multiple sources, all of which can be cross-referenced between and among the various research clusters and teams.

“Space can be reconfigured, literally overnight, to suit the needs of teams as they approach new phases of their research.”

In the Student Commons, the executive of 12 health-sciences student associations and groups will share space, both administrative and casual. “This meeting of young minds is perhaps our most important tool for change. From their student days onward, these young women and men will work in environments in which the whole is much more than the sum of its parts,” says Drummond. “When they leave ECHA, they will enter the community prepared to lead the change that will transform health care for all Canadians.”

The Edmonton Clinic Health Academy will be fully occupied by the end of December 2011.

Who will make the ECHA home:
Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry 
Department of Dentistry
Department of Pediatrics
Division of Community Engagement
Division of Continuous Professional Learning
Department of Medical Laboratory Science 
Faculty of Nursing 
School of Public Health 
Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences 
Health Sciences Council 
Health Sciences Education and Research Commons
Interdisciplinary Health Research Academy
Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences 
- Human Nutrition Group
Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine 
- Rehab Robotics Lab