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Students visit new PA program site in Carbondale

New home, new technology for family medicine and PA training

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In August 2019, SIU Medicine unveiled a new state-of-the-art clinic and teaching facility at 300 W. Oak Street in Carbondale, Illinois. The 40,000-square-foot space is now home to SIU Center for Family Medicine–Carbondale and SIU Medicine’s Physician Assistant Program.

The construction plan was developed as SIU’s family medicine clinic began to outgrow its space in the professional office building connected to SIH Memorial Hospital of Carbondale. The Physician Assistant Program was previously housed on the SIU Carbondale campus.

Since its opening in 1974, health care professionals at SIU Center for Family Medicine–Carbondale have provided care for the entire family, from newborns to seniors. The center is also home to an accredited family medicine residency program, which provides learners with comprehensive training in diverse medical fields, including pediatrics, behavioral health, surgery and geriatrics. The program also offers advanced training in sports medicine through its fellowship program.

“Developing this space gave us an incredible opportunity to plan for the future,” says Center Director Quincy Scott, DO. “We’ve created a beautiful new home for our health care providers, residents and students, with patient care that’s forward-focused and backed by the latest research and discoveries in medical education.”

SIU’s Physician Assistant Program occupies the second floor of the building. Like the medical school, the PA program uses problem-based learning, with a focus on small group discussions and simulated patient experiences. The program graduates 40 new physician assistants each year.

Physician Assistant Program Director Don Diemer considers the center’s teaching innovations and technology tools as a boon for better training and care.

“We are here to continually educate the next generation of providers and to elevate the entire field of primary care,” he said. “Offering this training in a new, high-tech learning space makes the program more attractive and it will anchor future providers to the region.”

SIU Family Medicine’s clinic occupies the ground level of the new building. On the second floor, the physician assistant space has a wealth of new resources to offer students who sign on for the 26-month program.

SynDavers and plastinated models will be used to teach anatomy to the PA students and Lincoln Scholars medical students. The SynDavers are synthetic cadavers that have all the major organs and musculature of a traditional cadaver, plus arteries, nerves, veins INNOVATIVE SPACES: SIU Medicine–Carbondale New home, new technology for family medicine and PA training 22 and bones. They require no chemicals, won’t decay or change appearance, and can be sent back to the company periodically to be refurbished.

The German company Von Hagens Plastination is providing the plastinated cadavers. (They are the same group that created the touring exhibition Body Worlds.) Plastination is a process where body fluids are drawn out of the tissues and replaced with a silicone-based polymer which, when dry, does not decompose.

The SynDavers cost $60,000 each and the plastinated cadavers $90,000 each. Because the new facility is also an outpatient clinic, the investment in the models allows for teaching anatomy and later, surgical techniques and dissection, without preservative requirements and the accompanying smells. The School of Medicine has been using plastinated partial models for years.

According to the companies who created the technologies, the SIU Physician Assistant Program is the first laboratory in the United States to have both types of instructional models in one lab.

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