Union workers build high-tech dental simulation laboratory for SIU dental school

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THE UNION-BUILT simulation lab is in this newly built, 18,000 square-foot building addition at the east end of the SIU School of Dental Medicine in Alton. Labor Tribune photos
THE UNION-BUILT simulation lab is in this newly built, 18,000 square-foot building addition at the east end of the SIU School of Dental Medicine in Alton.
Labor Tribune photos

By CARL GREEN

Illinois Correspondent

Alton ­–­ A new union-built facility at the Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine will improve the training of dental students for years to come by providing simulated patients and computer-aided instruction.

The 18,000 square-foot addition was designed by Woolpert Inc. and built by Poettker Construction under a Project Labor Agreement with the Southwestern Illinois Building and Construction Trades Council. It includes a ceramic reconstruction room, an X-ray room and, in its basement, a new home for the college’s physical fitness center. Construction began in October, 2012.

Students have already begun using the new simulation laboratory.

“It’s identical to working on a patient, except it’s not a real patient,” said Dr. Bruce Rotter, dean of the school.

CLINICAL ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR Dr. Richard Bradwell supervises his class in the new simulation lab at SIU School of Dental Medicine
CLINICAL ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR Dr. Richard Bradwell supervises his class in the new simulation lab at SIU School of Dental Medicine

The lab will mainly be used for students in the first and second years of the SIU program; more advanced students work mainly on real patients in the school’s clinics.

The lab includes 60 workstations equipped with a dental chair is filled by a manikin and an adjacent computer that provides students with information from the instructor and simulated patient records.

The $9.5 million project was funded by $4.1 million in state money through the Illinois Jobs Now! Program, as well as private donations.

REGIONAL NEED

The lab fills a regional need because the nearest similar facilities are at schools in Chicago, Kansas City and Kirksville, MO.

The school is located on the former campus of Shurtleff College, which was founded in 1827 as Alton Seminary. State

PATIENT MANIKINS give students in the simulation lab a more realistic learning experience than the previous equipment.
PATIENT MANIKINS give students in the simulation lab a more realistic learning experience than the previous equipment.

Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton) recalled the old college recently in his remarks at the laboratory dedication.

“There is a special blending of the old and the new – a state-of-the-art dental facility at one of the most venerable and oldest college campuses in the Midwest,” he said.

‘STATE OF THE ART’

SIU President Glenn Poshard called the lab a “state-of-the-art” facility that is “a huge asset to our students that will help us to continue to educate our students at the highest level.”

The dental school began operations in 1972. It operates its main public clinic at the campus in Alton and runs a satellite clinic in East St. Louis. The clinics get about 35,000 visits a year, and the school’s off-campus events reach another 10,000 people a year.

The school currently enrolls 200 students at a time, with 50 in each class year.

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