CHICAGO — Think of all the great ideas your institution could pursue if you had the funding. Or perhaps you need a facility to house your innovative project.

In a time of rising costs and restricted budgets, collaboration could be the key to making ideas realities.

Consider the example of the New York Simulation Center for the Health Sciences. The City University of New York and New York University worked together to create this state-of-the-art training center for health care students and professionals.

“CUNY and NYU couldn’t have done it alone,” said Thomas Riles, NYSim’s executive director and associate dean for medical education and technology at NYU. He spoke at the Society for College and University Planning’s international conference. Riles was joined by Todd Drake, associate principal for Ballinger, an architecture firm; and Iris Weinshall, vice chancellor for facilities planning, construction and management at CUNY’s central office.

Nearing the end of its first year of operation, NYSim was on track to meet its goal of serving 10,000 users.

Institutions lacked resources

In the wake of 9/11, CUNY received funding to build a first-responder, emergency response, and allied health care training center in Lower Manhattan, Weinshall said.

Officials realized they needed to partner with a hospital for the center to be a success. They explored options, but the hospitals they considered either did not have the capacity to support the center or had gone bankrupt, she said.

NYU officials wanted to build a medical simulation center but needed funds to do it. The institution’s Langone Medical Center had an affiliation with Bellevue Hospital.

So with the money from CUNY and the hospital partnership from NYU, both institutions had their needs met. Plus, CUNY Hunter is located near Bellevue and Langone, so the site made sense. An entire floor at Bellevue — about 23,000 square feet — was available for the project.

The partnership required officials to determine how they could work together in numerous areas, including:

Financial. CUNY contributed $21 million to get the project started. NYU led the design and construction of the facilities and will operate the center at a cost of about $3 million a year for about seven years. At the end of that time, the institutions will have both contributed the same amount, Weinshall said.

Construction. The floor at Bellevue required a gut renovation. CUNY and NYU officials made big decisions together, such as choosing the architect and designer. NYU held the contracts for the renovation. The planning process took about a year and a half to work through the various boards involved, Weinshall said. Construction took another year, she said.

Operation. NYSim’s steering committee consists of two individuals from NYU and two from CUNY who work together to solve problems as they arise. Riles directs the center. An associate medical director, associate nursing director and administrative director report to him. Other staff members’ responsibilities include working with faculty members to deliver simulations and otherwise support the center’s technological needs.

Time allocation. This was the most challenging decision, Weinshall said. Officials agreed that 40 percent of the facility use time would be allocated to NYU and 40 percent would be allocated to CUNY. They would share the other 20 percent or make decisions as needed.

Branding. As this was a joint venture between two institutions, determining how the center would be branded took ongoing conversations, Riles said.

Outside users. Officials at the two institutions developed a business plan to allow outside users access to the facilities, Riles said.

You can learn more about NYSim by going to

State-of-the-art simulations enhance medical training

Practicing medical techniques on life-like mannequins can help students learn the skills they need to be effective health care providers. Students also learn diagnostic and therapeutic techniques by working with actors who take the role of patient.

The New York Simulation Center for the Health Sciences serves students at the City University of New York and New York University by providing experiences that approximate situations they will face in their careers.

A number of institutions in the CUNY system have nursing schools. Students also study to be emergency medical technicians and respiratory therapists.

NYU has a medical school with students and residents, a college of nursing, and a school of dentistry.

In the first months NYSim was open, 525 programs used it, said Thomas Riles, NYSim’s executive director and associate dean for medical education and technology at NYU.

Mannequins can be programmed to simulate many medical conditions professionals might encounter. For example, some of them give birth and can be programmed to experience life-like complications such as maternal hemorrhages. Male and female mannequins representing people of different ages are available.

The companies that sell the mannequins provide programming to simulate common scenarios. Users can also program mannequins to create their own scenarios. Faculty members who train students at NYSim explain to staff members what they would like their students to experience, and the staff members create the simulations they need, Riles said.

The center also provides workshops for faculty members who want to learn more about how they can use simulations in their teaching, Riles said.

Center staff create simulations that are as real as possible, but they don’t want to traumatize students, Riles said. The mannequins can appear to suffer respiratory distress and bleed profusely. But staff members never let the mannequins die, he said.

In one simulation, students watched a delivery and took notes. Next, they visited a station where the new baby was not doing well and took more notes about the situation. At the third station, a malpractice attorney reviewed their notes and explained what impact they would have in a courtroom, Riles said.