A ribbon-cutting for the first visible image of the medical school being built in the U.S. Virgin Islands – the Medical Simulation Center – was attended by local and federal dignitaries on the St. Croix campus of the University of the Virgin Islands Wednesday.
The one-story building at the entrance to the university is more than 21,000 square feet with trauma and hybrid operating rooms, 18 surgical skill lab areas, four team training rooms, patient exam rooms, a dining room, and an auditorium.
After speakers lauded those who conceptualized, built, and will teach at the center, visitors toured the facility and listened, mesmerized, to manufacturing representatives explain how the interactive technology will teach future nurses and physicians.
UVI President David Hall shared some of the history of the project that was born in 2014. Initial funding came from the V.I. Legislature and Executive Branch after legislators traveled to Tampa, Florida, to observe the University of South Florida’s Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation.
“We believe that in the future it will attract medical device companies who want to be located close to a facility like this one in the Caribbean,” Hall said.
The St. Croix program is patterned after the South Florida center’s. To complete the project, funding of around $35 million was provided with a federal grant approved by the U.S. Commerce Department Economic Development Administration.
“We believe that this center, because of the technology that it has, because of the sophisticated mannequins that you will see, will turn on imagination and innovation lights in the minds of middle school and high school students so that they can start pursuing careers that they did not even know existed,” Hall said.
The keynote speaker was Dennis Alvord, deputy assistant secretary for Economic Development and Chief Operating Officer for the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Administration, who said the funding was an investment in the economy and the resilience of Virgin Islanders.
“We appreciate your spirit and honor your resilience,” he said.
Alvord believes the simulator and medical school will provide 500 jobs and attract conferences, training programs, and researchers.
Also addressing the audience of around 100 people was Dr. Yasuharu Okuda, executive director of the University of South Florida’s Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation. He said there are already 150 simulation centers throughout the country, and UVI joins U.S. Veteran’s Affairs, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Mayo Clinic, and others that offer similar education and research facilities.
“The simulator is not about technology. It is a technical tool for training and education. It is an incredibly powerful tool and resource for all of the territory,” he said.
Other speakers included Sen. Novelle Francis, Gov. Albert Bryan Jr., Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett, Oran Roebuck, vice-chair of the UVI board of trustees, and Haldane Davies, UVI vice president of Business Development and Innovation.
“The real value of the future of A.I. is human capital. The most valuable product in the Virgin Islands is human capital,” Bryan said.