New Phoenix Biomedical Campus
by Sara Weber
On Aug. 20, medical students began their classes at the new Phoenix Biomedical Campus. The 28-acre spread of land will host students from Northern Arizona University (NAU) and the UA College of Medicine.
While students may take courses in physical therapy at the Flagstaff campus, Leslie Shulz, executive dean of the College of Health and Human Services, explained a feature that makes the new campus unique.
“The physician assistant (PA) program is a brand new program,” Shulz said. “There isn’t an option for that in Flagstaff . . . and it’s nice for students who prefer an urban campus and don’t want to go to far from home.”
The campus offers students the chance to work with research professionals in labs with interactive technology features, as well as opportunities to work with the UA programs. ASU was originally part of the 2004 partnership, but withdrew in April 2010.
Ryan Hamic, a first year doctor of physical therapy student at the Biomedical Campus, made the choice to pursue his medical degree in Phoenix.
“I think the most exciting thing is the opportunity to be in such an interdisciplinary environment and also being able to share the campus with research labs and practicing medical professionals makes our studies seem more directed and less purely theoretical,” Hamic said. “It is great to be able to talk with people who are studying biomedical engineering, M.D. students, the PA program and to see the integration of healthcare professionals starting right at the base of our education. It gives me hope for the future of collaborative medicine.”
Mark Comwall, chair of the physical therapy department at NAU, agreed the Biomedical Campus will be beneficial.
“It opens up several possibilities we wouldn’t have access to [in Flagstaff],” Comwall said.
However, Hamic has his concerns also.
“As with anything new, it is impossible to foresee all potentialities; so there are of course going to be some bumps,” Hamic said. “But the staff and faculty have done a great job getting an entirely new program and collaboration up and running in very little time. On a personal note, I was concerned I was going to totally ruin our donor’s cadaver on the first day of lab.”
A select group of students were admitted this semester, though the class size is planned to increase in time. In general, students will spend two years earning their doctoratal and master’s degrees before leaving to perform their clinical rotations.
“We had 25 students start [Monday] in our physician assistant program and 24 in our doctorate in physical therapy program,” Shulz said. “We’ll have 25 that we admit once a year in to the physician assistance program for the first two years and then it will expand to 50 students a year. We have 25 in the physical therapy program and we have a goal to ultimately bring that number to 40.”
For many, the option of the Phoenix campus came as a surprise.
“Being an out-of-state student and going into a very highly competitive program, it was a rather nerve-wracking process being admitted to the program,” Hamic said when asked about his admission. “None of us actually knew that the Phoenix program was a possibility, as it wasn’t even accredited until May of this year. So, when we were offered admissions after our departmental interviews, they basically just went down the list and asked each of us whether we would like to attend the Flagstaff or Phoenix campus.”
The Health and Sciences Education Building is six stories tall, approximately 268,000 square feet and is covered by copper panels. Comwall describes the building as “nice, open and spacious; a building for those who love modern art.” Hamic considers it to be convenient and accommodating.
“The building itself is a major asset. Our labs and rooms are all state of the art, un-crowded and beautiful,” Hamic said. “We have access to both the NAU and UA Libraries, as well as being able to share some of our classes and campus with a wide range of other health science professionals.”
Students taking courses at the Biomedical Campus require the same pre-requisites and will pay the same tuition and course fees as students enrolled in the Flagstaff campus.