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DPT class tours new Francis Center

The Gerald L. Francis Center opens this month as the new home of the School of Health Sciences at Elon University.

Fifty-nine DPT candidates took a tour of the Gerald L. Francis Center on Jan. 9, 2012, during their first day of orientation on campus.


Fifty-nine new candidates for Elon University’s doctor of physical therapy toured on Monday their cutting-edge home for the next few years during the first day of orientation for the largest class in program history.

In two groups, the students had an opportunity to walk through the Gerald L. Francis Center on Haggard Avenue, which opened this month following a year of renovations to the property adjoining Danieley Center to the east of the university’s main campus.

The Francis Center houses the doctor of physical therapy program and the new master of physician assistant studies program, which will open in January 2013, and it will provide new labs for the exercise science undergraduate program. DPT's relocation from McMichael Science Center will allow 17,000 square feet of space there to be repurposed for much-needed undergraduate science expansion.

The facility, only half of which has been renovated to date, is named to honor current Executive Vice President Gerry Francis, who has dedicated his entire academic career to Elon. Additional space is still being planned for undergraduate student programs and consideration is being given to other possible uses.

Associate Professors Bill Andrews and Sue Chinworth in the Department of Physical Therapy Education led the class on the tour.

For the DPT students, several of whom spoke about the program following their tour, the new facility underscored why they selected Elon University to continue their graduate studies. “This building is spacious, and nothing is cramped,” said Jeremy Schain, who graduated last May from Furman University.

His classmate, Ohio University alumna Julie Banta, echoed his comments. “This facility is enormous,” she said, “and with our class being the biggest ever, they’ve really gone out of their way to accommodate us.”

The Francis Center features three classrooms dedicated to the DPT program and two classrooms for the physician assistant program, with three clinical laboratories, five simulation/exam rooms and two observation rooms, an anatomy lab, a biomechanics lab, a human performance lab, an ultrasound lab, a neuroscience lab, an anthropometry lab, an electrophysiology lab, a metabolic lab and an osteology lab.

New teaching and research equipment includes a second Biodex system for campus, a Qualisys gait analysis and rehabilitation system, which includes 12 cameras and a 16-channel wireless EMG system, plus two force plates; and a Robomedica system.

A large commons area, a student lounge, and a fitness facility on the first floor near the parking lot entrance to the building will serve as a gathering place for the hundreds of students who will ultimately fill the facility in the years ahead.

“They really do spend their entire day in this building,” said Professor Stephen Folger in the Department of Physical Therapy Education. “We want to make this a very vibrant part of the building.”

The university will be applying for LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council after the building, acquired in 2010 from Smithfield Foods, was renovated using sustainable practices and materials, including energy efficient systems. Included in the design are several skylights that filter natural sunlight into hallways that lack windows.

Created last year by the Elon University Board of Trustees, the School of Health Sciences is the university's sixth major academic unit, joining Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences; the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business; the School of Communications; the School of Education and Elon University School of Law.

Its founding dean is Elizabeth Rogers, who has led Elon's physical therapy program since its inception. Associate Professor Mark Archambault directs the physician assistant studies program.

Eric Townsend,
1/9/2012 9:18 PM