Through friendship and a deep desire to leave a legacy to their hometown, two “Butte boys” are establishing a $35 million medical training center here to bolster hands-on health care in rural areas of the U.S. and beyond. Pat Dudley and Ray Rogers say the Praxis Center for Innovative Learning in Uptown Butte will be the nation’s first independently owned, nonprofit medical simulation facility dedicated to rural health care.
They have chosen Butte-based Markovich Construction as their general contractor and CTA Architects Engineers, which has offices in seven Montana cities, for design and engineering work. Since they started down this path a decade ago, they have never wavered on its location. “We were stubbornly obstinate that we wanted it in Uptown Butte,” Dudley said. “We are Butte boys. We want it here.”
The premise behind the project is simple: Need.
There are many centers in the U.S. and abroad that now use high-tech mannequins and simulations to train health care practitioners, and the demand and market is growing. “They’re either in universities or they are in big medical centers,” Rogers said. “If rural health workers manage to get into those facilities,” Dudley said, they are treated like “second-class citizens.” That leaves rural practitioners with no place to go, since smaller hospitals can’t even afford the equipment. The Praxis Center will be that place to go: “We are the first entity that has looked at establishing an independent, nonprofit training center to do simulation,” Rogers said.
A helicopter landing pad will allow life-flight scenarios to be played out. A roadside car crash could be set up, with “virtual” people screaming and cars zipping by. One done for the Air Force resembled an Afghan village, and the U.S. military has expressed significant interest in using the center. “We will have another room called the home-scenario room,” Rogers said. “It will look just like someone’s living room so we can do home births or scenarios for EMTs and first-responders in the home.”
The center will be built to high energy and environmental standards and designs will incorporate “lots of Butte and the flavor of Butte” as was done at the new passenger terminal at Butte’s airport, Rogers said. “The goal, of course, is to spin them off into our economy to create more businesses in Butte.”