OGDEN -- Two dental-simulation heads recline, mouths agape, waiting for students to trim their overgrown plastic gums and build temporary crowns.
In the X-ray lab, a different fabricated practice head holds remarkably still as two students scan its jaw and teeth. Down the hall, hospital beds wait to receive computer-controlled simulated patients so the skills of nurses in training can be tested.
Ogden-Weber Applied Technology College this week opened its new building, the Samuel H. and Marian K. Barker Family Health Technologies Building, for classes.
It's the college's first new building in 15 years. It is the new home to the 600 students studying for health-related certificates in career areas including dental assisting, medical or nursing assisting, pharmacy assisting, phlebotomy technician, dental or medical office administrator, medical coder or licensed practical nursing.
Because the 88,000-square-foot Health Technologies Building has state-of-the-art equipment and at least triple the space previously available to OWATC's health programs, officials expect enrollment to double in coming years.
"We had 33 slots and about 170 applicants for the LPN program," said Janet Olsen, OWATC Health Occupations program director. "We think people have already heard about the new facility and want to come study here."
A new cooperative program between OWATC and the Weber State University Nursing Department also generated interest, Olsen said.
Beginning in fall 2012, Weber State will offer registered nurse training and certification for OWATC students who complete the licensed practical nurse program.
RN program graduates will get a Weber State diploma after completing RN coursework at OWATC.
A similar program has been running for several years between the Weber State nursing department and Davis Applied Technology College in Kaysville, said Susan Thornock, acting chairwoman of the WSU nursing department.
"I believe this is a benefit not only to Weber State's department of nursing, but to OWATC and to the nursing community," she said.
"They teach the first year, and we teach the second. Weber State provides the faculty, and OWATC provides the facility. It relieves classroom, lab space and clinical space for us, and makes it possible for us to teach more students."
Weber State won't decrease the number of students in its nursing program, but new faculty will be hired to ease the increased teaching load, she said.
"We've worked hard to get this done for OWATC, a college that means a great deal to us at Weber State," Thornock said.
The Health Technologies Building, at the northeast corner of campus, was funded by $21.9 million approved by the 2009 Utah Legislature partly in recognition of the private and corporate donations raised by the OWATC Foundation. Those donations have totaled more than $1 million so far.
The building was designed to be airy and light, with lots of windows featuring spectacular mountain views. Halls are wide, and stairways are open. Interior gardens feature low-maintenance potted plants surrounded by jagged landscaping gravel.
"We wanted the building to relate to health more than business," said Brenda Fell, lead dental instructor. "We wanted it to have an earthy, natural, healthy feel. I have told my students they can't use the elevator unless they have a broken leg. They have to use the stairs."
A pharmacy area features shelves of medication containers behind a window for customers. Pharmacy and nursing students have computers to scan medications and patient information.
The dental area has a modest waiting room where office administration students check in "patients."
Olsen said she can imagine a day when OWATC has a dental clinic open to the public, although that dream is in the early planning stages
Olsen is thrilled with the 36-station computer lab, the simulation labs and all the classroom and study spaces, but said two of her favorite spaces are the large rooms on each floor, labeled "future space project."
The two rooms stand nearly empty. The spaces are for OWATC's next health studies programs, whatever those may be.
"We've been in a small space, dreaming of this building for eight years, and now we have it," Olsen said. "Now we have space to grow and offer new programs as the job market demands. We've got a big future ahead."
To donate money for the Health Technologies Building, call Karen Thurber, development director, at 801-395-3781 or email email@example.com.