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Week of March 25, 2013

Medical learning space to get $55M upgrade

Just more than 163 years ago, the first medical students arrived at U-M for a 19th-century medical education that included a year of lectures and three years working with a practicing physician.

Today, learning to be a 21st-century doctor involves years of training — not just in the facts of modern medical science but also in patient-interaction skills, teamwork with other health professionals and computer-based medical information systems.

The Taubman Health Sciences Library building will be transformed into a medical education hub that supports in-person, collaborative and active learning. image courtesy U-M Health System.

The Medical School’s students and those in other disciplines soon will have a state-of-the-art environment for all these forms of learning, after a vote March 21 by the Board of Regents.

Within months, work will begin on a $55 million project to transform the Taubman Health Sciences Library building into a natural-light-filled medical education hub, one that supports in-person, collaborative and active learning. Construction of designs by TMP Architecture and Ballinger will create an estimated 72 construction jobs.

While much of the collection will be moved to a different location, library items will be available by request or online, and recent or frequently requested volumes will still have a place in the renovated building. A rare medical books collection, with historical works dating as far back as the 15th century, has moved to the Special Collections Library in the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library.

In place of bookshelves, U-M will create a multilevel medical education space in 137,000 square feet across four floors, and add a glass “skin” to the building, originally built in 1980. The library is located on Catherine Street near the corner of Zina Pitcher, on the former location of one of U-M’s original hospitals, built in 1891. It is named for A. Alfred Taubman in recognition of a gift made in 1977; his total lifetime giving makes him the largest donor to the university.

Beginning with the class that will matriculate in 2015, medical students will have access to modern classrooms, clinical simulation and information technology-rich assessment areas to learn and test patient care skills, collaboration spaces and small group learning and team breakout rooms.

Other U-M health professions students, such as those from the College of Pharmacy, also will take part in learning there, as part of multidisciplinary training.

A large commons area, space for exhibits, interprofessional leadership training spaces, a library, and wide new staircases and halls will foster interaction. The building also will have a medical student-centered lounge, quiet study and reflection areas.

“This project will uphold our commitment to preparing students to be health care leaders of the 21st century, and continue a historical tradition that now spans three centuries,” said Dr. Rajesh Mangrulkar, associate dean for medical student education. “Our partners in the health sciences library community and our other health professional schools have embraced this change, which will create a truly modern learning environment.”

The project also will make the building more energy efficient, in keeping with U-M’s environmental sustainability commitment. Upon completion, it will qualify for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver status.

The upgrade will increase the number of fully equipped medical and procedure rooms where students can develop their physical examination and clinical interaction skills with standardized and real patients.

Better computer and study space, and offices for the library and medical school staff who assist the 700 medical students and 1,100 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows with academics and career planning, are also included.

The conversion of library space reflects the changing reality of medicine and other health professions: the dramatic rise in the availability of online resources — electronic journals and databases — that physicians, researchers, faculty, and students can access anywhere, any time.

U-M’s health sciences librarians provide a wide range of services, and continue to share their expertise in finding, accessing, managing, and using information with students, faculty and staff in all of U-M’s health-related schools. But more and more, those librarians collaborate with faculty in their teaching and research via online interactions, or in their classrooms, labs, clinics and hospitals.

Jane Blumenthal, director of the Taubman Health Sciences Library and associate university librarian, notes that the project is in line with the library’s shift toward immersion in the environments where health professionals train and practice, rather than waiting for them to come to the library building.

“The new building design reflects the way the library functions now. Librarians are an integral part of the work of the health sciences schools, and like our 21st-century collections, our 21st-century librarians go where that work is happening,” said Blumenthal. “From the beginning of the project our focus has been on integration, rather than on a standalone library.”

The project was planned through cooperation among the Medical School, the Taubman Health Sciences Library, the Provost’s Office, the University Architect’s office and U-M health sciences schools that train other health professionals and also use the Taubman Library. The opinions, ideas and insights of students, faculty and staff all contributed to this process.

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