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The Communicator NEWS & POLITICS

Health Sciences Optimistic for Change

Written by: Bernadette BeckerFebruary 02, 2017

As of July 1, 2018, the departments of nursing, dental education, and medical imaging and radiologic sciences will change into a separate IU regional campus, as a satellite of IUPUI.

“We’re still going to be here,” said Mary Cooper, associate dean of the College of Health and Human Services.

Cooper, who has been at IPFW since 1979, said she wants people to know that although the administration is changing hands, the faculty, staff and curriculum will be the same.

“We’re all positive about the change … (to make this) as successful as possible,” Cooper said.

Of these three health sciences programs, two were already IU mission (Medical Imaging and Dental Education) but now all will be fully administered and aligned with IU, including the School of Nursing’s graduate degrees, despite the Legislative Services Agency Recommendation that Purdue keep the nursing graduate degrees.

“The goal is for it to be seamless for students,” said Obergfell, the dean of the College of Health and Human Services.

The College of Health and Human Services houses all three departments transitioning to IU, and now will consist of only the Departments of Hospitality and Tourism Management and Human Services.

“This campus isn’t broken,” Obergfell said.

She explained that this change was not IPFW being punished for failing or mismanagement. IPFW is very successful in its program’s pass rates for professional exams and has national rankings outside of Purdue or IU’s rankings, Obergfell said. From the perspective of the department heads overseeing the transition, this change was made to enable more focus and investment from the parent institutions.

“Transition” has mostly meant that administrators are trying to find IU course numbers to correspond with Purdue general education credits that students will receive before admittance into the IU health programs.

“We have the strongest programs in the state, and we intend to keep it that way,”  Obergfell said.

Another area of transition is technology. Many of the information systems used by Purdue are not used by IU, so there will be a transition to a new platform for online learning, Director of the Dental Assisting Program Connie Myers Kracher said. For example, IU uses Canvas rather than Blackboard, and uses a different system than myBlueprint for credit management.

Throughout the change, however, “The No. 1 priority is taking care of students’ critical needs,” Kracher said.


One of the “critical items” the three departments are asking IU for support in is marketing and publicity, said Cheryl Duncan, chair of medical imaging.

“We haven’t been marketing as much as we should … due to retirements and the hiring freeze,”  Kracher said.

“So many people don’t know we exist here,”  Cooper said. The dental clinic, Cooper said, is relatively unknown in the community and especially to many students on campus.

The health sciences work out in the community through outreach to Matthew 25, Neighborhood Clinic and others.


Because of the location for the programs changing over, most of the first floor of Neff Hall will become IU. For instance, Kracher explained that IPFW had to itemize and give a value to all the dental lab equipment in order for IU to compensate Purdue for it.

Kracher explained that the dental program was actually started as an IU school and was still under the guidance of the IU School of Dentistry until around the mid-1980s.

The Department of Dental Education has been converting its programs from associate and certificates to bachelor’s degree programs, such as the only lab tech bachelor’s degree in the midwest and one of only 15 in the nation.


Obergfell said since nursing is the only department to be switching affiliation, it will have the most difficult time, but that the essential information will be the same.

As a result of the Purdue Early Retirement Program, the nursing department lost three senior nursing faculty and a couple of advisors, which has increased workloads at a time of already increased stress, Obergfell said.

Medical Imaging and Radiologic Tech

Duncan hopes that there will be an increase in the online classes available to Medical Imaging students to enable different courses and concentrations of study.

There is hope of collaboration between Medical Imaging and Purdue engineering to do new research, especially in biomedical innovation.

Growth is not just about numbers; there are many other areas of growth, Cooper said.

The Prospect of a New IU Health Building

As a result of IPFW’s split there has been talk of a new healthcare facility, which has been well received by all the departments involved, especially since Neff is outdated and oftentimes has accessibility issues for people coming to the dental clinic.

“The only good thing in this building is that there’s actually a freight elevator,” Obergfell said.

“We hope to get out of the basement,” Cooper said.

Additionally, there is hope that the new building can enhance learning and ccollaboration:

“To have our students have a clinical experience right here on campus would be amazing,” said Duncan.

Duncan said she believes a possible new health science building would include medical imaging and provide unique, hands-on learning experiences for students.

“The opportunity for people to actually be working side by side with the people from the other disciplines I think creates a much more informed healthcare provider and creates so many innovative opportunities for those people,” Obergfell said.

Obergfell said she sees the possibility for a deeper connection with the IU medical school for more comprehensive and groundbreaking education. She even wants faculty offices to be more integrated rather than separated by department so more collaboration may happen naturally.

Patient referrals is another benefit of having several health sciences in one building. Cooper gave the example of dental patients with untreated hypertension. Those patients would normally be turned away from care, but with the nursing department or clinic nearby ready to treat patients, more people could get the dental care they need.

IPFW’s Health Clinic, located in Walb, is part of the college of health and human services and with the human resources department, Obergfell said. The clinic is nurse practitioner administered, and those nurse practitioners are nursing faculty. Thus, the status of the clinic is yet to be determined.

“We want that clinic to still serve everybody that’s on this campus,”  Obergfell said. She is committed to it remaining a campus-wide clinic.

Right now the clinic is Purdue managed, but Obergfell said regardless of “which side of this it ends up on … we hope and believe the nurse practitioner faculty would still be part of that.”

“I think everybody in their heart wanted it to remain a single university,” Obergfell said. However, she said it is time to “seize the opportunity,” since the decision has been made.

“There’s not many times in an academic career when you can actually create something,” Obergfell said.

She said that this time of transition is an opportunity to affect lasting change.