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Robot Simulators showcase high-tech learning at Noorda medical school open house



Megan Wallgren | Lehi Free Press

Noorda COM Marketing

Robots may have been giving birth in Provo earlier this month, but it didn’t signal a robot apocalypse. The high-tech birth simulations were part of an open house for Utah’s newest medical school, Noorda College of Osteopathic Medicine. Noorda-COM opened its doors to the public on Saturday, March 9, to showcase the latest in medical education technology and its brand-new 14,000-square-foot building. An estimated 1,500 members of the public and media visited the Provo campus and were treated to various high-tech activities. Those in attendance participated in augmented reality tours, robot patient simulation demonstrations, and “mini med school” escape room activities.

The life-sized robots that serve as patient simulators were a crowd pleaser. These high-tech mannequins use sophisticated mathematical models to objectively reflect human physiology and the influences acting on it, such as medicines, equipment and illness. Demonstrations on the robot simulators given at the open house included heart attacks, GI bleeding and births. 

“We pride ourselves in being tech-forward,” said Schyler Richards, Vice President for Institutional Advancement. “Our students participate in various simulations, using task trainers and patient simulators to practice various clinical skills. We also bring actors into the simulation rooms to enhance the reality of the situation.” 

While a student works on the robotic patient simulator, an actor may pretend to be a concerned spouse, an angry child or a supportive nurse. In this way, students learn not only the treatment skills needed but also how to deal with the stress of other factors competing for their attention. 

“One of my favorite simulations involved delivering the baby and placenta of the pregnant mannequin, Lucinda, in various scenarios such as a breech presentation and postpartum hemorrhage,” said third-year medical student Aparna Naik. “The simulations have prepared me well for the real-life medical scenarios I’ve encountered on my clinical rotations.”

Noorda-COM’s students also participate in structured clinical examinations that simulate real-world experiences. 

“Students walk into our simulated clinical room—which looks exactly like a clinic or primary care physician office—and interact with a patient actor. Students are expected to extend a diagnosis, form a treatment plan, and work on their bedside manner. Faculty and staff watch through cameras and provide detailed feedback,” Richards said. 


Noorda College is an osteopathic medical school focusing on Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degrees. The degree program takes four years, then students complete 2-7 years of additional residency training in their desired specialty. Students can also enroll in a dual program to receive their MBA from Utah Valley University in addition to their DO degree from Noorda-COM.

Noorda-COM currently has about 400 students. Enrollment will top out at 750 students, and at that number would become Utah’s largest medical school. The school currently has students from 37 states, 46% of whom have ties to Utah. Seventeen percent of the student body are first-generation college students, and 19.8% are underrepresented minorities.

“Our students are fulfilling community needs through generous donations of time, including volunteering at health fairs and helping underserved patients at Provo’s Volunteer Care Clinic every Thursday night,” said Richards. 

Noorda-COM’s innovation doesn’t stop with high-tech simulations. Their students are part of “learning pods.” These small groups gather daily to watch pre-recorded lectures and work through simulations and assignments. 

“This form of small group learning allows students to have independence in their schedule, eliminates competition, and teaches students to be collaborative physicians,” Richards said. “[Learning pods] were created by our founding dean and, to our knowledge, are the first in the nation. Many schools are creating plans to mimic this learning style, but we’re the founders of it and have been teaching students with pods since 2021.”

“I loved the idea of pods when applying to Noorda-COM but have since been fully converted. They give you a small group learning experience and help provide the flexibility most students crave after years of large lecture halls,” said second-year student James Pike. “I have realized that the greatest benefit is learning to approach problems like real-world demands in groups and teams.”

Noorda-COM is still growing and enhancing its programs. They see good things on the horizon, including a health clinic that will open later this spring in partnership with In2it Medical. Noorda-COM faculty and In2It Medical providers will offer treatment to local patients. Third- and fourth-year medical students will rotate through this health clinic, working under the supervision of faculty and physicians to diagnose and treat patients.

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