Council Approves $100 million UNMC project


August 31st, 2016

The Omaha City Council meets Tuesdays at 2pm. (Photo by Ryan Robertson)

The Omaha City Council meets Tuesdays at 2pm. (Photo by Ryan Robertson)

Omaha City Council Members passed a resolution during their regular meeting yesterday, which will pave the way for a new, multi-million dollar project at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Council members breezed through the first part of their agenda Tuesday, approving two preliminary plats for new housing developments as well as recommending approval for five new liquor licenses.

Councilman Chris Jerram requested two resolutions be taken off the Council’s consent agenda. One resolution would set aside up to $50,000 for a study to examine lighting options at city parking garages. The other resolution called for another almost $50,000 to be used to study Omaha’s snow removal plan. Both resolutions called for the hiring of consultants from outside the Omaha area.

Councilman Jerram took issue with the resolutions because he said he didn’t really know anything about them or why they were on the agenda to begin with.

Jerram said, “It’s my belief that these type of items are best served when the City Council’s committee process is respected and they work their way through the committee to share with the Council just why these sort of consulting agreements are needed and the justification. Often times, as a result of that process, [Council member’s] questions are answered. Other times, the Council members have input and consulting agreements get refined, improved, and expanded.”

The Council voted to layover both resolutions for two weeks.

Council members then turned their attention to a new project proposed by the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

It’s being called iEXCEL, or the Interprofessional Experimental Center for Enduring Learning. iEXCEL will be a three story, $100 million project which promises to be a global leader in medical education

Dr. Pamela Boyers will oversee iEXCEL. To this reporter, her explanation of iEXCEL’s capabilities sounded more like a scene from the Star Trek TV series than a medical center.

“It consists of three floors, [the first floor] houses a kind of simulation that is three-dimensional and has virtual immersive reality and holographic technology,” Boyers said. “It houses technology like caves and immersive environments that you can literally get into and create anything you want to. You can create outer space, you can fly through the earth, you can go to any country, you can create any disaster scenario, any in-patient hospital scenario. It really is only limited to the imagination. And you can actually fly through these spaces.”

And that’s just the first floor. Dr. Boyers also described robots which will be programmed to act like different types of patients. The programmable robots will be able to exhibit any type of sickness or injury imaginable; offering students the chance to simulate real world scenarios. Similar to when pilots learn to fly in simulators.

Bob Bartee, UNMC’s Vice Chancellor for External Affairs said iEXCEL will create 325 new jobs, and generate a little more than $39 million of economic impact. In addition to several state senators, Bartee said four international medical research companies will also work with iEXCEL to develop the necessary software and hardware requirements, which can then in-turn be patented and sold.

Bartee said, “There’s a real excitement out in the global community, because healthcare has lagged behind these other industries. And because the human body is so complex, to be able to do a 3D model has been really difficult.”

Most of the funding for iEXCEL, around $66 million, will come from private funding. The State of Nebraska has pledged another $25 million. Omaha will chip in just over $10 million…which will be used mostly to improve the infrastructure around iEXCEL. No word yet on when the new Sci-Fi like facility will be complete, or if it will include teleportation devices.

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