‘Top-notch’ renovation of seventh floor at the W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus nears completion

Upjohn Campus 7th Floor Renovation
The renovation of the seventh floor, which began in late 2018 and is now nearing completion, is being funded by a substantial and generous grant from the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation.

As the renovation of an unfinished portion of the seventh floor of the W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus has progressed, Joyce deJong, DO, chair of the medical school’s Department of Pathology, has watched it all with anticipation and excitement.

“It’s beautiful,” Dr. deJong said recently. “It has exceeded my expectations and the space is going to fit our needs today and beyond.”

The renovation of the seventh floor, which began in late 2018 and is now nearing completion, is being funded by a substantial and generous grant from the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation. With the improvements, Department of Pathology faculty, staff, laboratories, and resources are now housed together on the seventh floor, a move meant to improve efficiency and address current space constraints in the department’s role in providing forensic pathology services for our region. The renovation will also provide needed room for growth for anatomy education, resident and fellow training, and research.

The Department of Pathology is hosting a private open house on Tuesday, December 17, 2019, for community leaders and WMed faculty, residents, students, staff, and client counties who use the services of the Office of the Medical Examiner and Forensic Services to tour the newly renovated seventh floor.

Dr. deJong said the consolidation of the Department of Pathology on the seventh floor will allow for processes to be more streamlined and foster improved communication and team building within the department. Moreover, she said the renovation allowed for space for the addition of a CT scanner.

Dr. deJong said her department is in the process of seeking additional funding partners to acquire a CT scanner, which she noted is an important tool in death investigations that only a few medical examiner offices in the country currently have. 

The Department of Pathology has 17 faculty members including many community pathologists who are based at Ascension Borgess Hospital or Bronson Methodist Hospital. The department is regarded for its advanced science, research presence, scope of practice, and a commitment to teaching and improving health through advanced forensic pathology.

Several faculty are currently part of an ongoing project to research and develop a protocol and database to pinpoint in death investigations involving skull fractures exactly when the trauma occurred. The work is being funded by a two-year, $576,000 grant from the National Institute of Justice.  

Additionally, the Department of Pathology provides data support for Cradle Kalamazoo, a community initiative aimed at reducing infant deaths and the racial and socioeconomic disparities that exist. Dr. deJong and other faculty within the department also provide forensic pathology services to Kalamazoo and 11 other Michigan counties through their work in the Office of the Medical Examiner and Forensic Services, which is now housed entirely on the seventh floor of the W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus. The department provides diagnostic services that aid in combatting the opioid crisis and all departmental faculty participate in the education of WMed students using an integrated approach in the classroom and pathology elective opportunities.

“It’s a welcoming, warm space and we have the ability now to meet the needs of all of our stakeholders,” Dr. deJong said. “It is absolutely top-notch.”

In addition to the positive impact on the Department of Pathology, the improvements to the seventh floor will also enhance anatomy education for students, as well as training for residents and fellows, and research.

The renovation of the seventh floor included the addition of a room that will house two state-of-the-art Sectra digital anatomy tables. The new technology, according to Wendy Lackey, PhD, assistant professor of anatomy in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, will foster deeper collaboration and team-based learning.

The Sectra tables feature a 65-inch screen and allow users to interact with an array of medical images and pathology. The tables can be tilted at different angles to accommodate groups of varying sizes.

“This will increase engagement for students,” Dr. Lackey said. “The new technology will enhance the anatomy lab experience and enhance clinical applications which is key to teaching our medical students.”

The new tables were installed on the seventh floor in late October and once they are fully operational, Dr. Lackey said the new technology will complement well the medical school’s gross anatomy and multi-purpose skills labs.

“Students like technology, they like innovation but I think it has to be incorporated into a well thought out program,” Dr. Lackey said. “I think we will be able to do some really exciting things and it will all highlight our innovations and I think we are leaders where that is concerned.”

The renovation of the seventh floor at the W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus also includes the addition of a new bioskills lab that will serve as a new training ground for resident physicians in general surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, orthopaedic surgery and emergency medicine.

The new lab was the brainchild of Drs. Keith Kenter, Robert Sawyer, and Debra Taubel, who serve as chairs of the medical school’s departments of Orthopaedic Surgery, Surgery and Obstetrics and Gynecology, respectively.

Dr. Kenter said the new lab will provide residents, as well as students and fellows, the chance to gain advanced, hands-on skills using an array of technology, devices and tools to complete surgical procedures and non-invasive procedures in a controlled environment. The lab will feature eight tables for training.

“This provides an opportunity for our residents and other learners to see multiple approaches and philosophical designs,” Dr. Kenter said. “If they can feel comfortable with those approaches before walking into the operating theater, it improves their engagement for surgery and they are more confident which lowers stress levels, makes the time in the OR more meaningful and, in turn, improves outcomes.”

The lab will house radiology tools which can be used by Emergency Medicine residents to quickly see reductions of fractures and practice that skill set on cadavers, Dr. Kenter said. 

Additionally, Dr. Kenter said he wants to eventually open the bioskills lab up to physicians in the community and other orthopaedic surgery residency programs from across the state for weekend courses and trainings to foster collaboration and camaraderie.

“This new lab is an offering that a lot of institutions do not have in place,” Dr. Kenter said. “The renovation and improvements on the seventh floor have put in place an attractive resource and what’s unique is the collaboration and the interdisciplinary approach to basic science, applied anatomy and pathology. We’re not siloed here.”