By April Bourie
Walking from one lab space to another at Pima Medical Institute’s new campus seems just like being at a hospital. The layout of each space looks and feels like the real thing, and the state-of-the-art equipment provides medical students the opportunity to use what is being used in their fields of study today.
“The expansive space in the new campus allows us to have all of our programs in one location, which provides considerably more interaction between departments – just as there would be in a hospital,” said Dale Berg, campus director at Pima Medical Institute. “We also have additional space, which will allow us to add two new programs sometime in the future.”
Pima Medical Institute is a family-owned and operated medical-career school that provides 12 associate and certificate programs in Tucson. There are 18 campuses throughout the Southwest plus an online program. The institute was started in 1972 by the late Richard Luebke, Sr.
The new campus is surrounded by several medical offices and buildings and is located southwest of the intersection of Craycroft and Grant Roads, just south of Tucson Medical Center. “The location alone gives us the opportunity to establish new externship sites for students,” Berg said.
Classes started in the new facility on April 8. PMI renovated the former Townsend Middle School – yet former Townsend attendees would find it difficult to recognize the old school in the new site.
X-ray machines, hospital beds, veterinary surgery areas and a beautiful high-tech simulation theater where nursing students can sit and watch smaller groups do procedures have replaced standard classrooms with chalkboards. In addition, small cut-outs with tables and chairs are placed throughout the hallways to provide students a place to sit and work on small projects or just relax when not in class. The student lounge has a large write-on/wipe-off board for larger groups to meet, as well as refrigerators, microwaves and vending machines from which students can purchase items using prepaid cards available through PMI.
Staff spaces have improved as well. In the old facility, there were three cubicles shared by all teaching staff. Today, faculty offices include 34 individual workspaces equipped with phones and computers, in addition to scanners to grade tests, plus copy machines and storage for office supplies.
“When he started, there was one little campus in Tucson teaching only certified nursing,” Berg said of the founder Luebke. “He really had a heart for his employees, and as the corporation grew, he wanted to keep that family-type environment. He hired the types of individuals that he felt would keep that family feel even though they may be in different states.”
In 2002, Luebke made an unprecedented move – giving 30% of the school to his employees through an Employee Stock Ownership Program. The share price is determined each year by an independent auditing firm that determines the value based on the strength of the school. Today, the percentage of the company owned by staff has grown to over 50%.
Employees had input in the design of the new campus. “Staff was heavily involved in the design process,” said Berg. “Everyone in the various programs had input on what they’d like to see in their program, both the classrooms and the labs. We look to employees to contribute. They’re majority owners, so they should have the opportunity to participate and share ideas.”
Students remain a top priority at PMI. “Some other private schools have closed because they haven’t focused on student outcomes,” said Fred Freedman, PMI president and CEO, at the grand opening ceremony of the campus in July.
Berg said, “We are mandated by our accrediting body to place a minimum of 70% of our students in employment in their fields – but we’re very proud that we place almost 80% on a consistent basis.”
“Word of mouth is our biggest advertiser in Tucson. We are a school with a family of dedicated teachers, students and wonderful staff,” Dick Luebke, Jr., PMI chairman of the board, said during the grand opening ceremony. “A house is just a house – but it becomes a home when we love each other as family.”
“It was so exciting to see the students who made the transition with us walk through the doors of the new campus,” said Berg. “Their eyes popped and their jaws dropped. They knew where we came from and coming from that to this is such an upgrade.”