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New ECC Facility Is a Draw for Health Sciences Students

Students, Lee Cox and Andrea Cunin

Respiratory Therapy students Lee Cox and Andrea Cunin practice an arterial puncture in the new high-tech Biotechnology and Medical Simulation Center on the Rocky Mount campus. The public is invited to the opening and dedication of the new building on Friday, March 4, at 11 a.m.

Edgecombe Community College student Andrea Cunin travels from Raleigh to take advantage of the uniquely realistic learning experiences offered for health sciences students in a new state-of-the-art facility on the college’s Rocky Mount campus.

Cunin, 32, a Respiratory Therapy student, has been an emergency medical technician (EMT) for two years and understands the importance of being ready to respond quickly and appropriately when life-saving skills are required.

“The new Biotechnology and Medical Simulation Center at ECC is raising the standard of health care education in our region,” says Cunin, who received Basic EMT training at Wake Tech and earned Intermediate EMT credentials at ECC.

Cunin enrolled in the Respiratory Therapy program with the goal of incorporating her emergency medical knowledge to deliver a high level of critical care in the mobile setting. “I was accepted by two other colleges, but I commute to ECC because of this wonderful facility and all it offers,” Cunin explains.

She plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy after graduating from ECC.

Lee Cox, 48, is pursuing a second career after recently retiring from the NC Highway Patrol. Last August, he enrolled in the Respiratory Therapy program and commutes from Wilson to the Rocky Mount campus.

“My first classes were in the old building,” Cox says. “The instructors were great, but our experiences were somewhat limited by the spaces. We did a lot of observing and practiced with traditional mannequins on desks or countertops.”

Cox, too, plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy following graduation in May 2017.

The new three-story, 45,000-square-foot Biotechnology and Medical Simulation Center, which opened in January, was designed to maximize the use of current technology and mimic a true hospital setting with emphasis on adaptability to meet future needs.

Multiple classrooms and a 96-seat auditorium complement an entire floor that reflects a real-world medical environment. The lab floor contains nurses’ stations, emergency rooms, radiography suites, and hospital beds where computerized lifelike mannequins wait to simulate illnesses, trauma symptoms, and childbirth.

“We can practice essential skills without risk to a real person,” Cunin explains. “The teacher programs the mannequin to produce symptoms, such as turning blue from lack of oxygen, and students learn to analyze, react, and provide appropriate care for each situation.”

Cunin and Cox agree that the hands-on approach in the high-tech simulated health care environment in the ECC Biotechnology and Medical Simulation Center has many advantages.

Like athletes who want to improve their games, health care students can see videos of their work for self-evaluation and instructor feedback. They can observe themselves in many scenarios such as the delicate task of inserting a breathing tube into a mannequin’s trachea.

“This simulated environment is very realistic,” says Cox. “I believe it will give us the skills and confidence needed for a smooth transition to our clinicals and the workplace.”

“Based on my EMT experiences, I know jobs in the health care field require life-saving reactions and interventions,” Cunin adds. “Having realistic lab settings at our fingertips enables us to train thoroughly for those situations before we work with actual patients.”

The public is invited to the opening and dedication of the Biotechnology and Medical Simulation Center on Friday, March 4, at 11 a.m. on the Rocky Mount campus. To learn more about the event, please contact 823-5166, ext. 235, or