University of Nebraska Medical Center breaks ground on $118.9 million VR training facility

Virtual reality and augmented reality have been applauded as technologies that are poised to change nearly every industry, from entertainment to space travel, advertising to healthcare.

But how can VR and AR change education? The University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha is finding out.

Earlier this month, UNMC broke ground on a $118.9 million, 191,884-square-foot facility that will use virtual and augmented reality to educate the next generation of healthcare workers.

The facility will be called the Dr. Edwin Davis & Dorothy Balbach Davis Global Center for Advanced Interprofessional Learning — or the Davis Global Center for short. It was named as such in honor of a gift from the Dorothy B. Davis Foundation of Omaha. For 33 years, Dr. Edwin Davis, a physician and faculty member, served as chairman of the urology department at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine. Though his tenure lasted from 1920 to 1953, he utilized early technology prototypes to assist him while teaching. He married Dorothy Balbach in 1921.

“What Dorothy and Edwin wanted the family to do is to find good causes, wonderful projects in the community to invest in, and there seemed to be no better match for Dr. Edwin Davis than this project at UNMC,” Dorothy B. Davis Foundation Executive Director Pam Swisher said in a statement.

Construction of the Davis Global Center is funded by private donors as well as HHS, the City of Omaha and the State of Nebraska.

The facility will be home to two programs: the Interprofessional Experiential Center for Enduring Learning (or iEXCEL) program and the National Center for Health Security and Biopreparedness.

iEXCEL will focus on training students using simulation technologies, virtual immersive reality, augmented reality and holographic technologies. Through the National Center for Health Security and Biopreparedness, which is funded by HHS, UNMC will be able to teach federal healthcare workers techniques for treating infectious diseases.

The Davis Global Center includes a variety of unique features, including a 130-seat holographic theater, a simulated acute care unit and a simulated critical care unit. It will also house iEXCEL Helix, a 280-degree curved screen that creates a 2D and 3D environment, and iEXCEL iSpace, a five-sided 3D environment.

It is set to open in the fall of 2018, according to the Omaha World-Herald.

In a statement, UNMC Chancellor Dr. Jeffrey Gold highlighted the benefits of the facility:

Learners do best by having experience, whether it’s learning how to play a sport, a musical instrument or, in my case, do cardiac surgery. The more experience, the more practice, the more hands-on opportunities we get the better off we are to deliver high quality, safe, effective and patient-centered care. This center will achieve all of those goals and continue to bring Nebraska to the epicenter of the learning world.

Photo: REB Images, Getty Images

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