Wichita’s biomedical campus aims to build tech and variety into health care training

Students from Wichita State University, WSU Tech and the University of Kansas School of Medicine will share space and get accustomed to working across professions.

by Roxie Hammill

A $300 million project about to be built downtown will give Wichita State University a unique opportunity to give students the most modern training possible in a health care world that is undergoing “tectonic” changes, says Gregory Hand, WSU dean of the College of Health Professions.

As health care becomes more about teamwork among doctors, nurses, physical therapists and social workers, the biomedical campus will be a space where students from WSU, WSU Tech and the University of Kansas can practice that kind of collaboration, he said. In the process, they’ll have an up-to-date floor plan that puts the university’s technical equipment to best use while providing room for expansion.

“I’ve been doing this a long time,” he said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Space with a purpose

Groundbreaking is set for May 8 with move-ins expected for the fall of 2026 on the two-building project on the blocks east of the corner of Broadway Avenue and East William Street.

The first building to go up in the $300 million project will be an eight-story structure on what is now a parking lot. WSU and WSU Tech will have the first four floors, with KU on the top three and a shared space for medical simulation training.

The new space is less about research and lab equipment than practical experience and applied learning for the students, most of whom will be upperclassmen and graduate students, Hand said.

“More important than the increase in square footage is the fact we’re building this building specifically to address our disciplines,” Hand said. Nursing, physical therapy and physician assistants, for example, will have specially designed facilities.

The nursing school, for instance, has spent over $1.5 million over the past two years upgrading its robotic mannequins and simulation centers. The high-tech mannequins can talk, follow students with their eyes and even vomit. Hand said the new facility isn’t so much about the mannequins, though, as having space where students can use them most effectively. 

“Most universities, the spaces you are in are the spaces you inherit. We have this relatively unique opportunity to create our own space for our needs, and it’s really going to be quite impressive.”

Having that kind of space will allow WSU to expand some programs and provide some specialties that haven’t been available before, he said.

Gregory Hand, dean of College of Health Professions at Wichita State, said the biomedical campus will allow students to use the newest technologies and collaborate across fields, a growing trend in medicine.
(Wichita State)

The space opens up possibilities for nurses, physical therapists, speech pathologists and others to focus on pediatrics or health care for older people. 

It also will help the college keep up with how the health care industry is changing, Hand said, by offering more clinical rotations where students can work with patients under supervision to learn how to treat them in their homes. 

New and expanded programs

There will also be more freedom to expand existing programs and open new ones, Hand said. WSU is getting ready to launch a licensed mental health technician program in the college of nursing, possibly as early as January, he said. Though a lot of it will be online, he said he doubts it could happen without the new space for clinical training.

The university also expects to expand its space for physical therapy education by 50 percent.

All that will happen against a backdrop of collaboration with the University of Kansas, the Kansas College of Osteopathic Medicine and COMCARE, which is consolidating its Community Crisis Center and other programs in a space next door. 

A new psychiatric hospital set to open in southwest Wichita in 2026 will also be a chance for collaboration, he said, adding that it and the crisis center will be opportunities for students and grad students to help staff as part of their training.

A new way of sharing space

Right now, WSU health sciences are spread out over five locations in Wichita. The new facility will allow them to consolidate not only with one another, but with KU and other institutions, Hand said.

Sharing space with other institutions and disciplines will help students learn interprofessional education, which emphasizes teams of health care professionals rather than one provider and one patient. Hand called that the “future of health care.”

Interprofessional collaboration has been an ongoing health care trend, especially since the staffing crunch of the pandemic. With this type of care, a team of professionals from a variety of disciplines works with a patient. Nurses, physicians, social workers and pharmacists may coordinate patient care plans, rather than making them individually. This type of teamwork has been shown to decrease mortality rates, lower medical errors and improve other patient outcomes.

“There are tectonic changes happening in health care,” he said of interprofessional care. “Health care education is now catching up to that.” 

The biomedical campus collaboration between WSU, WSU Tech and KU will open up opportunities for those interprofessional interactions “that we just simply have not had before, and frankly, nobody else has either. There is no such place like this, where multiple institutions share space,” Hand said. “It just doesn’t exist.” 

“This is a wonderful experiment.”

This article was republished here with the permission of: The Beacon