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Chamber of Commerce visits Francis Center

Top local business and civic leaders on Tuesday toured Elon University’s new home for physical therapy education and physician assistant studies.

Students and faculty in the School of Health Sciences gave tours of the Francis Center on March 13 to members of the Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce.


Several dozen of Alamance County’s leading businesses were represented on campus Tuesday evening for a tour of the newly renovated Gerald L. Francis Center on East Haggard Avenue, a cutting-edge facility that houses Elon University’s School of Health Sciences.

The Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce visited the building for a reception with faculty and students tied to the Doctor of Physical Therapy and the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies programs.

Visitors heard from Lucien Roughton, founder of Roughton Nickelson De Luca Architects, the firm that designed the new facility from what used to be a hog-processing plant. Roughton explained how the structure, first opened in the early 1960s, was a hodgepodge of eight separate buildings added together over time.

The Francis Center is home to the Doctor of Physical Therapy and the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies programs.

He and his team incorporated natural light into the interior using skylights and hope to eventually have the building LEED-certified for its sustainable features and the practices used throughout construction. “The real challenge was making a livable educational environment out of a vast, windowless factory,” he said.

Elizabeth Rogers, dean of the School of Health Sciences, reflected on the role that health sciences will play in American society for many decades. “Health sciences are not something that can exported,” she said in her remarks to an audience of more than 100 people. "The future is very bright for our graduates."

She also identified the benefactors whose support made the renovations possible: Alamance Regional Medical Center, Duke Endowment, Moses Cone Health System, New Leaf Society, Alamance County Economic Development Foundation, Cannon Foundation Inc., Glen Raven Inc., the Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce and Chandler Concrete Company Inc.

The Francis Center houses the Doctor of Physical Therapy program and the new Master of Science for Physician Assistant Studies program, the latter of 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.

School of Health Sciences Dean Elizabeth Rogers: "The future is very bright for our graduates."

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.

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.

Eric Townsend,
3/15/2012 12:21 PM