Behling Patient Simulation Center Transforms Health Sciences Education at UB

In extremely realistic clinical settings, teams of health sciences students "treat" patient mannequins, catch errors on videotape

Release Date: September 20, 2011


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UB alumnus Ralph Behling says of the Behling Simulation Center: "I think I'm contributing to education as a whole, not only just to a one-year class, but it will be going on forever."

Key Points:

-- UB's Behling Simulation Center holds its grand opening and tours at 5 p.m. today, Sept. 20, on the fourth floor of Farber Hall, UB South Campus.

-- The 10,000-square-foot UB center is the first in the country originally designed to bring students in all five health sciences together to learn the way they will work in the community -- as members of a team.

-- In eight flexible, clinical settings plus five de-briefing rooms where students review their performance, the center enhances health sciences education at UB, improves health care in Western New York.

-- The center is named for UB alumnus Ralph Behling. The first physician in Buffalo to use injected penicillin to fight infection, Behling worked for the U.S. Public Health Service and helped standardize cancer treatment nationwide.

-- The Behling Simulation Center, and other UB projects, will be equipped and operated with a mix of private philanthropic support as well as public funding.

BUFFALO, N. Y. -- Before treating their first, live human patient, University at Buffalo students in the five health sciences schools will be able to safely practice a full range of medical procedures, from inserting catheters and delivering babies to resuscitating injured patients, thanks to the new Behling Simulation Center, which holds its grand opening today.

The new approach to health sciences education will result in graduates who are best prepared for the contemporary health care environment and for enhancing the health of Western New Yorkers, says Michael E. Cain, MD, UB vice president for health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

"Just as health care professionals work as a team in the field, our students in all five of the health sciences schools will now be learning together as a team as well," he says. "The Behling Center is breaking down the traditional educational silos between medicine, nursing, pharmacy, public health and dentistry. We are tremendously grateful to Dr. Behling and to all the other donors who have made this inter-professional educational center possible."

Ralph Behling, MD, who has a pharmacy degree from UB and who graduated from UB's medical school in 1943, has committed $3 million for its creation.

The simulation center opening is part of a broad range of events celebrating the inauguration of Satish K. Tripathi as UB's 15th president, events that will emphasize the university's excellence in research, education and service; its efforts to create a vibrant and healthy community; and the many ways in which UB faculty, students and staff engage the Western New York community and the world beyond.

Operating in pilot mode since last year, and now in full-scale operation, the center has so far touched the lives of more than 500 UB students. It is expected that within this first year, it will have directly affected more than 1,000 UB students throughout all the health sciences disciplines. The center also will be used by area health care institutions and students from other schools.

The ability to affect so many generations of students motivated Behling to develop the simulation center.

"I think I'm contributing to education as a whole," he says, "not only just to a one-year class, but it will be going on forever."

The university continues to raise funds to create new programs for the center and purchase additional equipment.

"Simulation training is the future of resident and fellow clinical training in areas where experience is required before attempting the technique on real patients," says Mark J. Lema, MD, PhD, UB professor and chair of anesthesiology and president of the Erie County Medical Society.

"Our students practice until they get it perfect, and get over the learning curve so that the brain, the eyes and the hands are all working together," says Jeffrey W. Myers, DO, director of the Behling Simulation Center and academic scholar in UB's Department of Emergency Medicine in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Myers says the simulations also bring to light the complex social, ethical and interpersonal issues that health care professionals face every day.

"The simulations put the students right into a realistic situation where they have to think on their feet," he says. "You can lecture about it until the cows come home but in the center, the students come face to face with family members whom they have to tell that their loved one is critically ill or dying. Until they are in that situation, they don't know how they are going to deal with it."

So far, the center has a library of about 55 simulation scenarios ranging from traumatic injury and pediatric septic shock to kidney disease problems and a pregnant teenager.

Students participate in four-hour blocks of time where they have the opportunity to either participate in, or view, four complete scenarios. After the scenario, all the students review the videotape and discuss what went right -- and where they need to improve.

As faculty and administrators at UB's five health sciences schools develop curricula for the center, they are finding new synergies between them.

"The faculty and deans who are working on the curriculum are learning from each other and about each others' disciplines," says Myers. "The center is the visible entity that is becoming a driving force in bringing all of the professions together."

For more information on the Behling Simulation Center, go to

The Behling Simulation Center is part of UB's Academic Health Center, which brings together the talents of clinicians, educators and researchers to improve the understanding and treatment of disease and to foster basic discovery in the biosciences, health sciences translational research, preventive and interventional clinical trials, superb clinical care and training of the next generation of health care practitioner in each discipline. Among the members of the prestigious Association of American Universities, UB is one of only 10 institutions across the nation to have built an Academic Health Center that includes the full complement of health sciences schools: the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and the schools of Dental Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Public Health and Health Professions. More information about UB's Academic Health Center is at

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