AUC inaugurates expansion

POSTED: 01/9/14 11:26 PM

“A symbolic bridge between the university and St. Maarten”

St. Maarten – In just sixteen months, the American University of the Caribbean in Cupecoy managed to complete the first phase of its expansion plan – a 75,000 square feet building equipped with cutting-edge equipment for its students. Yesterday, in the presence of many dignitaries, the university inaugurated the facility.

The Dean of Medical Sciences, Ron Testa, served as the master of ceremonies in the building’s huge auditorium that is able to accommodate 400 to 600 people. Among the guests attending were Governor Dr. Eugène Holiday, Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams, Vromi-Minister Maurice Lake, Public Health Minister Cornelius de Weever, Justice Minister Dennis Richardson, Education Minister Patricia Lourens and UP-leader Theo Heyliger.

Testa revealed the first of three paintings the AUC commissioned from local painter Ras Mosera – a favorite artist of Justice Minister Dennis Richardson – that depicts “the human experience.” The other three paintings in the series will be revealed in the next couple of months. Mosera was present at the ceremony.

AUC started using the new building already in September of last year. “It is a symbol for the direction the AUC is taking,” Testa said.

Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams connected to a humorous remark Testa made about the convenience the bridge across the lagoon offers to the university’s staff and its students. “There is also a symbolic bridge between the AUC and the community of St. Maarten,” she noted.

When AUC, after Devry Inc. bought the institution, presented its the plans for the expansion, “we could not help but believe what we heard,” Wescot-Williams said, “but we also wondered whether these plans would come to fruition, given the fact that this is a huge investment that had to be made in difficult economic times.”

The prime minister pointed out that the agreement with the AUC included a pledge to use local contractors and suppliers for the project. Among these contractors are construction company Liccom and the IT-firm Antek. “For projects like these we want to use as many local contractors as possible,” Wescot-Williams said. “To AUC and Devry I say thank you for making this possible.”

The prime minister furthermore referred to the university’s community-involvement and to the scholarships it offers to local students who want to study medicine. “The first local student has been enrolled,” she added.

Wescot-Williams pointed out that the current expansion is phase 1 of the AUC’s plans for the future and she urged the university to continue with phase 2.

Heidi Chumley, AUC’s Executive Dean and Chief Academic Officer, told the audience that the AUC values the relationship it maintains with St. Maarten. “There is a commitment to the partnership that offers scholarships to local student to study medicine here. This is more than a building; it is a symbol for our relationship with St. Maarten.”

Chumley added that the university also promotes the island at international seminars and conferences. “We take the name of AUC and St. Maarten wherever we go.”

The AUC presented the Aids Foundation and the Diabetes Foundation each with a donation of $500. Then, with Prime Minister Wescot-Williams, Chumley cut a gold-colored ribbon on stage with a pair of seriously oversized scissors.

Before the official part of the afternoon, visitors had the opportunity to take a guided tour of the building.

The building has three stories above ground and one below ground level. The latter location houses the testing center – the place where students do their exams. Divided over two rooms, this part of the facility offers seating to 285 students. From a control booth professors are able to monitor all testing at every station.

On the top floor of the building is a Prosection room for the Anatomy Faculty. It has a lab with 15 stainless steel autopsy tables and a cadaver storage room with a capacity for 80 cadavers.

Above each autopsy table is a huge monitor that gives access to VH Dissector software. This program gives students the possibility to interact with correlated 3D and cross-sectional views of more than 2,000 anatomical structures. Dissector helps students understand the complex three-dimensional structure of the human body.

Next to this Gross Anatomy Lab is the so-called Dry Anatomy Lab, consisting of 64 stations equipped with Dell laptops.

On the second floor are small group discussion rooms –with a maximum capacity of 14 students each –for face-to-face learning. During large semester class sizes, the university flies in additional professors to maintain the small-group learning environment.

There are also rooms for the so-called standardized patient program where volunteers go through the process as if they are going to see a doctor.

Then there is the s-called Harvey-lab where a pneumatic torso patient (called Harvey) simulates heart functions and heart complications. In the adjacent SimMan lab computer-controlled robotic patients mimic the grand majority of the human system.

Students have the possibility here to administer treatment – and see the consequences. According to a spokesman in the lab, it happens on occasion that the robotic patient “dies” – but that is a valuable learning experience for the student that does not cost human life.

On the ground floor is the Market Café – the place where students munch and study. Currently this facility is negotiating with a local vendor to provide students with a grab and go type of food service.

The Intensive Care Medicine faculty offices include a lounge, restrooms, a dedicated print room with archive storage and an interactive conference room with an 80-inch smart flat screen video and teleconferencing system called LifeSize.

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