OLC expansion gives flexibility
Facility can accommodate more simultaneous uses
By Laura Pelehach
One evening last fall, while members of the Illinois Orthopaedic Society were attending a course on hand surgery in the laboratory and one of the lecture rooms of the Orthopaedic Learning Center (OLC), members of the Arthroscopy Association of North America were in another room, at lectures of another course. Earlier that day, a manufacturer had used the laboratory of the Rosemont, Ill-based facility for research and development of new products.
Not long ago, the facility would not have been able to accommodate all three groups on one day. Since completion of the $620,000 expansion of the OLC last October, however, the potential to provide more room and flexibility for larger courses has increased. The expansion included addition of a 2,083-square-foot multipurpose room and a 366-square-foot multimedia classroom, and remodeling of existing OLC office space. The renovations added to an existing 5,600-square-foot laboratory, complete with 25 work stations, as well as a lecture/lunch room. The expansion provides more "breathing room" for lectures and break-out sessions.
The OLC, a joint project of the Academy and the Arthroscopy Association of North America (AANA), operates as a separate Illinois not-for-profit corporation. The laboratory opened for business in January 1994. Soon afterward, it became apparent that the lecture and meeting space was inadequate.
"The problem with the OLC is that it had become too popular and, as a result, overcrowded," says OLC Board President S. Terry Canale, MD. The laboratory could accommodate classes of up to as many as 96 students and faculty, but the existing lecture and lunchroom could only hold 80 comfortably. "There was no capability for breakout sessions," says Dr. Canale. "The new conference center will allow us to give lectures in one area, while another group may be performing surgical skills in the laboratory itself."
The new multipurpose room can seat 96 theater-style in table arm chairs and an additional 68 at tables and chairs. The multimedia room is designed to hold 12 learning carrels that each will be stationed with a computer and a VCR. Dr. Canale says the OLC is well-equipped to handle the current shift in surgical education from didactic lectures and "the old see-one-do-one technique" to interactive, hands-on surgical skills training. In the multimedia room, participants can view CD-ROMs with small segments of the procedure demonstrated before they go into the laboratory for the hands-on education. Dr. Canale says that these capabilities are especially applicable for new and difficult procedures.
Between 1996 and 1997, participation from organizations other than the Academy and AANA grew 79 percent. Among attendees at recent meetings in the OLC were neurosurgeons, family physicians and orthopaedic instrument manufacturers. In 1997, the Academy held courses in the OLC on 55 days; AANA, 42 days; and other organizations, 55 days.
The popularity of the facility can be attributed to its sophisticated, multifunctional audiovisual system; proximity to many area medical associations; and proximity to O’Hare International Airport. Another selling point is that the facility can be rented to accommodate small groups, requiring only one work station, and to large groups requiring all 25 work stations.
Smith & Nephew, Inc., for example, has used the facility several times throughout the year to train its sales force and to hold advanced arthroscopy courses for international surgeons. By holding courses in the facility, the company can avoid the time and expense of shipping and setting up equipment in a hotel ballroom, says Marie Lintner, director of education for the company’s endoscopy division.
The OLC adds an air of neutrality because the work stations are not housed in the company, yet surgeons can use the company’s products there, Lintner says. "It makes a positive impression on surgeons because the facility is so well set up and equipped," she adds. "It’s a quality place."
The facility also has drawn renters from outside the orthopaedic arena. When the American Academy of Family Physicians needed a place to film soft-tissue surgery for an educational video for its members, it chose the OLC "because it’s a state-of-the-art facility," says Thomas J. Zuber, MD, instructor in dermatologic surgery for the family physicians’ organization. The filming went seamlessly, says Dr. Zuber, who was lead surgeon in the video. Dr. Zuber says the group is considering using the facility for an upcoming videotaping.
The end of the week is the most popular time for courses, but plans are in the works to formalize a marketing strategy to fill holes in the Monday-through-Thursday schedules. "We’re looking at other specialty groups that have surgical skills as well as medical groups that don’t have surgical skills," says Dr. Canale. "We’re looking at some interested Chicago area medical schools and industry groups.
"In 1998, we’ll be celebrating our fifth anniversary," Dr. Canale adds. "We’re very excited about continuing to increase the number of courses and the popularity that the OLC has enjoyed."
For more information about the OLC, visit the OLC website at www.ortholearnctr.org, or contact Pat Cichlar, OLC Director, at (847) 384-4210, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org