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Simulation Center Expansion Completed

A long-sought vision will soon be realized. On April 1, a formal groundbreaking ceremony was held for the new building that will house School of Health Sciences (SHS) programs and departments. This new, critical asset for the university reflects the enduring commitment by the State of South Dakota, the University of South Dakota, the School of Health Sciences and other partners to boost health professions education in our state and offer evolving, improving health care to South Dakotans and the nation. 

The School of Health Sciences is ideally organized to provide interprofessional training, as the school contains a larger number of health programs and more health professions students than are found at any other university or college in the state.

Measuring 45,000 square feet, the new three-level structure will be physically connected to the existing Andrew E. Lee Memorial Medicine and Science Building, forming a unified “health complex” of classrooms, laboratories, research facilities, offices, study spaces and meeting rooms. Of the school’s nine departments, only the school’s physical therapy and occupational therapy departments will not occupy space in the new structure, as those two programs are now housed in the Sanford Coyote Sports Center building that was opened in fall 2016. One special feature of the new facility will be a dental hygiene clinic aided by a donation from Delta Dental of South Dakota.

Debriefing follows simulation exercises.

Consolidating most School of Health Sciences programs into an interconnected “complex” from several distinct locations around campus offers many benefits and advantages to students and faculty, including strengthening and expanding interprofessional and collaborative opportunities.

The School of Health Sciences -the only comprehensive school of health professions education in South Dakota- is one of the newest and fastest-growing schools at USD. With over 2,000 students and between 500 and 600 graduates each year, the school offers 16 major degree-granting programs. Undergraduate and graduate degrees are offered in nine academic departments, including several significant programs available in our state only through the School of Health Sciences. Approximately half of the professional health care jobs in South Dakota require a college degree, and half of those degrees have been earned at USD. Over 63% of those who graduate from a program in the School of Health Sciences practice in our state.

"We are preparing our students to be job-ready when they graduate." - Haifa Samra, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Health Sciences

Construction on the new SHS building begins this spring, and anticipated completion is 2022.

The Growth of Simulation at USD

In its first year of operation, the first simulation center in the Lee Medical Building offered 82 different learning sessions to 257 students. That number now exceeds 120 sessions serving more than 600 students each year. USD Nursing has utilized simulation-based learning for its students since 2003, and by 2010 this important tool had been fully integrated into the department’s curriculum. Since 2014 the center has seen more utilization for interprofessional education of USD School of Health Science students. Interprofessional education involves teaching students from various health care fields to work together, cooperatively and collaboratively.

A simulation center contains rooms that simulate hospital/clinic rooms as well as observation and debriefing rooms to enrich student learning.


USD has been a national leader regarding incorporating interprofessional preparation into its health professions education, including simulation exercises.

The Value of Simulation in Interprofessional Health Care

At the Lee Med simulation center, students improve patient assessment abilities and communication skills with patients and family members. They also learn the importance of interdisciplinary teamwork to deliver safe care and improve health outcomes.

A recent interprofessional exercise in the simulation center on the lower level of the Lee Medical Building had students from physical therapy, nursing and medical laboratory science working together to address and solve an emergency medical situation. A goal of this simulation and other interprofessional simulation exercises is to allow students to apply the knowledge and skills they learn within their own programs while learning about other disciplines. According to Adam Ladwig, DPT, assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, these experiences “improve interdisciplinary communication, which better prepare students for the dynamic interaction required of effective health care teams in the real working world.”

Interprofessional education involves teaching students from various health care fields to work together, cooperatively and collaboratively, to benefit patients. 

This type of experience, Ladwig added, is the closest we can get to an actual patient experience while maintaining complete safety and supervision under the watchful eyes of faculty. “At times,” said Ladwig, “the students might be initially uncomfortable in these simulation experiences, but they finish with more confidence and understanding than when they started, and, hopefully, they are better prepared for a real medical emergency.”

Learn more about USD simulation