November 21, 2023

Ribbon cutting ceremony celebrated for Heersink Family Active Learning Center

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On Nov. 15, 2023, UAB’s Heersink School of Medicine, Department of Medical Education, and Medical Alumni Association hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of the Heersink Family Active Learning Center. The brand-new center in Volker Hall represents a milestone in UAB’s cutting-edge medical education curriculum. The construction of this space was made possible by a generous donation from the Heersink Family Foundation.

Anupam Agarwal, M.D., senior vice president for Medicine and dean of the UAB Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine, welcomed those gathered and spoke of the transformation that has taken place in Volker Hall during recent years. He announced the naming of two additional spaces by the Heersinks—a lounge space adjacent to the Active Learning Center named for Dr. Gregory Pence and a sixth-floor space named for their friends, Frank Barefield and his late wife Pamela. Additionally, he extended appreciation to Irfan Asif, M.D. and the Department of Family and Community Medicine for a financial gift that made possible the distribution of 600 point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) devices for use by students.

IMG 7260Agarwal was followed by Michael Caruso, M.D., president of the Medical Alumni Association, which has been a critical contributor toward Volker Hall’s renovations in recent years. Their contributions named a breakout area, a lounge, and a group study room on Volker Hall’s sixth floor. “I’m excited to see the transformations in Volker Hall,” Caruso said, “and proud to know that many current and future students will see the impact of alumni and donor generosity reflected in these spaces for years to come.”

Craig Hoesley, M.D., senior associate dean for Medical Education, then spoke to the importance of the Active Learning Center. “The setup and technology within the space is allowing us to transition away from lecture-based learning into a flipped classroom environment that promotes peer-based education and collaboration,” Hoesley said. “We’re thrilled by the opportunity to continue pushing the boundaries of education and what’s possible in the classroom setting as we train the next generations of leaders in medicine.”

Hoesley then invited Dr. Heersink to the podium to reflect on the night’s celebration. Heersink spoke to how thrilled he is to see the progress within UAB’s medical school. He held a copy of the initial plans for the Active Learning Center that were presented to him several years ago and exclaimed his excitement that those plans have become a reality.

After remarks were given, the ceremonial ribbon was cut by Dr. Heersink, Mary Heersink, Dr. Agarwal, Dr. Hoesley, Dr. Asif, and Dr. Caruso. Medical students then led tours for ceremony guests, showing them the various floors in Volker Hall that have been updated.

IMG 7238The second floor hosted demonstrations within the Active Learning Center, previewing the room’s technology and cutting-edge learning capabilities. Guests were given the opportunity to participate in a session of Questions at UAB (QAB), one of the collaborative learning concepts implemented in the Active Learning Center with medical students. Additionally, adjacent to the Active Learning Center, Clinical Practice spaces were set up to demonstrate the new POCUS devices and how basic life support skills are reinforced using rapid cycle deliberate practice teaching . The fourth, fifth, and sixth floors highlighted renovations that have added student relaxation space and collaborative student study spaces.

“About 5 years ago, we visited Volker Hall and were given a proposal that detailed how transformative a gift could be for the learning environment,” notes Dr. Heersink. “After some consideration and a few changes to the original plan, I’m so proud of the renovations and technology we are now able to offer our medical students. The students that come through these doors will have a wonderful opportunity to have a more hands-on and collaborative learning experience, resulting in clinicians with a team-minded approach to patient care.”

Marnix E. Heersink, M.D., was joined at the ceremony by his wife, Mary, and his son Damion. The entire Heersink family are longtime supporters of UAB’s medical programs, earning three M.D. degrees, a Master of Public Health degree, and a degree from the UAB School of Dentistry.

Click here to learn more about the opening of the Heersink Family Active Learning Center.