When students in the College of Optometry return to the University of Missouri–St. Louis campus this week, they’ll find a brand-new space to study, practice for exams and commune with their classmates.
UMSL recently completed a months-long renovation of the second floor of the Patient Care Center, which will now serve as the main hub of clinical lab education for the College of Optometry. The roughly 14,000-square-foot space features teaching labs and study and lounge spaces, and will serve more than 170 students in the program.
With four new lab spaces boasting room for 30 students in each lab, students can now engage in pre-clinical training in the same building as their in-person training at the University Eye Center downstairs.
“I’m extremely excited about our new clinical training spaces on the second floor of the Patient Care Center,” Dean Keshia Elder said. “These new spaces will be transformative for the College of Optometry. The College of Optometry has a robust didactic and clinical training program; however, now the spaces that we train in will mirror the education that our students receive.”
“We made do in our old clinic, but that was it – you made do,” Associate Dean of Clinical Operations Vinita Henry added. “When you get a space that’s designed for you, it just makes everything fall into place so much easier.”
Aside from merely an aesthetic upgrade, Elder believes that the new audio/visual equipment installed in these training spaces will help the college teach students more effectively. For instance, the lab spaces are equipped with microphones, cameras and televisions that can help broadcast what an instructor is seeing on a patient to a room full of students.
“One of the highlights of the new spaces on the second floor of the Patient Care Center is the state-of-the-art audio/visual equipment that we have embedded in this space,” Elder said. “Having this high technology allows our teachers to engage with our students more effectively and more efficiently and it allows our students to be able to take the best advantage of the clinical training that they are receiving here in this building.”
In addition to the pre-clinical training and laboratory spaces, the newly renovated second floor is also home to 13 study nooks as well as lockers for over 100 students. Students will have 24/7 card-swipe access to the space, and Elder and Henry expect that students will spend a lot of time here, between studying, practicing and working with other students.
“We have common areas where the students can study, they can hang out, they can eat lunch, and we also have lockers that the students have access to, to store their equipment,” Elder said. “Students also have 24/7 access to this space, so if they want to study after hours, or come up here and get some extra practice time, they have access to this clinical lab space whenever they need it.”
“We envision students spending a lot of time over here because they have 24/7 access to the space,” Henry said. “They’ll be able to practice in here, study in here and engage in small group study.”
The second-floor space now also features one preparation room for fourth-year students to practice for their boards. It includes equipment they can expect to see during their exams, such as arm simulators for injections and taking blood pressure.
Overall, both Elder and Henry believe the newly renovated space will only strengthen the College of Optometry’s ability to train world-class optometrists. Students on campus over the summer have already asked to go upstairs and take a peek inside the space, returning to the first floor full of excitement. Faculty members who have toured the space have also marveled at everything it offers.
“The teachers may be more excited than the students about these new spaces,” Elder said with a laugh. “We have really great faculty here at the UMSL College of Optometry and the opportunity for them to teach our students and engage with our students in such a beautiful space is really going to improve the effectiveness of their teaching. The potential it offers as far as student training and education just takes us to the next level.”