The threat of rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of the hundreds who went out to celebrate the opening of the Don Allen Health Science Building at Weatherford College Thursday.
Fortunately, the storms held off and the state-of-the-art facility took center stage.
While students have been taking classes for two weeks inside, the public got its first glimpse of the 31,000 square-foot building that is home to several certificate programs like nursing, respiratory therapy and phlebotomy, among others. Simulated labs and hospital rooms mimic “patients” having real-life situations from cardiac arrest to a woman giving birth.
But before attendees looked inside, WC President Dr. Kevin Eaton, Frank Martin, Board of Trustees Chairman, and Bob Glenn, WC Foundation President, said a few words highlighting the many people who helped make the $6 million project possible.
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“This is another huge day for Weatherford College,” Eaton said. “We always strive to put the students first and this building accomplishes that.”
Eaton then touted the raising of $2.4 million in the Foundation’s capital campaign, spoke about how the project came in under budget and on-time and praised past and present board members for their vision of what they want WC to be. He added that with furniture and equipment, the cost of the building was less than $188 per square-foot.
“Our mission is to provide effective learning opportunities that enrich the lives of our students and the communities we serve,” Eaton said. “I truly believe that all of the capital projects we have completed over the past four years have done just that.”
Martin agreed and said that every accomplishment the college celebrates just proves that WC is a place to be recognized.
“[This is a] quality place to get educated,” he said.
He then introduced two Allied Health students, both married with children, who are taking classes at the college - Shannon Coble and Dennis Maguth.
Coble is in the LVN to RN program and said how grateful she was for the innovative new labs. Maguth, a sonography student, said the “Cadillac of a building” gives him a sense of pride.
“As we come up the hill and see the Don Allen Health Science Building, there’s a great sense of pride,” he said. “It’s a great time to be a student.”
Glenn took time to give special thanks to Jerry and Vickie Durant, whose $400,000 donation was the largest the Foundation received toward the new building. He then presented the Durants and also Allen (the building’s namesake) a framed collage with photos of the facility.
After taking a couple of ribbon-cutting photos with both the Weatherford Chamber of Commerce and East Parker County Chamber of Commerce, attendees were then invited inside to look at the various labs and classrooms. Students were on hand in each room to talk about the particular benefit of that area.
At the “hospital,” for example, lab assistant Mary Knickerbocker controls each of the SimMan patients - life-like mannequins that blink, talk, cough and interact with the students based on what they instructor wants them to focus on that day.
“We have four adults, one child and a birthing one where a woman has a child,” she explained. “There is even a crash cart if that’s the situation the instructor chooses.”
One particular “patient” was set up for students later in the day to work on who mimicked hypothermia, complete with blue fingertips and a blue nose. When students arrive, Knickerbocker will program the patient’s reactions from a computer screen.
“This helps them with their clinical experience and take what they’ve learned in the classroom and apply it,” Knickerbocker said. “It’s better to make a mistake in here than in the real world.”
There is also a basic skills area where students can request medicines and supplies for patients when needed, just as they would do in a hospital.
Another upstairs lab area simulates a triage in an emergency room. During Thursday’s tour, a student was sewing up a wound on the stomach of a mannequin. There were also clinical areas for patient consultations for those who may work in home health and doctor’s offices. Downstairs, phlebotomy students can learn to draw blood from patients with “arms” that are attached to fake blood bags.
During the tour, several students from the various Allied Health programs touted how much better the new labs were and thanked everyone for attending and contributing to their future.