HPL prepares for move to Mellow as PA Program expands


Graduate students Alison Staub and Nick Fiolo do research in the Human Physiology Lab.

Sarah E. Cruz, News Editor

The Human Physiology Laboratory (HPL) is currently moving its operations from the Keith J. O’Neill Center for Healthy Families to the Robert J. Mellow Center for Athletics and Wellness in order to accommodate the growth of the physician’s assistant (PA) program also located in the O’Neill Center.The PA program facilities are expanding in order to receive approval from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) to potentially increase their minimum class size from 45 to 60 students.Wendy Yankelitis, assistant vice president for buildings and grounds, stated that the two-phase project will cost an estimated $1,800,000. The two phases are the transition of the HPL from the O’Neill Center to the Mellow Center and the renovations of the former HPL and the current PA classroom. The first phase began in early February and should be completed by the end of April. The second phase should be completed by December 2013.

Dr. Lori E. Swanchak, interim director of the physician’s assistant program, stated that the current classroom will be transformed into a state-of-the-art physical assessment lab containing 22 beds, allowing the students to practice their clincial exam skills.

The space that the HPL presently occupies will be converted into an amphitheater-style classroom allowing for more effective teaching, and will include tables with built-in outlets enabling students to charge their laptops and other devices more efficiently.

“We believe that the expansion will enhance the program’s visibility within the profession,” Swanchak said.

Dr. Gerald S. Zavorsky, director of the human physiology laboratory, stated that it provides graduate students in the sports nutrition and exercise science and nutrition programs the opportunity to conduct research. It has also done numerous studies on various demographics including women with weight and lifestyle issues, cyclists, and even runners in last fall’s Steamtown Marathon.

The HPL also performs fitness testing and pulmonary function testing through the use of treadmills and other equipment. It is also currently overseeing “Marywood Meltdown,” a university employee wellness program in which 50 faculty and staff members are enrolled.

Yankelitis said that the HPL is being moved to the student lounge in the Mellow Center since that facility receives a lot of foot traffic, which will help its staff to gain student volunteers for their various studies and tests. Another reason is the connection between the HPL and the athletic training program, whose students regularly utilize the facility.

Zavorsky stated that the HPL, which currently operates in a space of approximately 2,400 sq. ft., will be moving to a similarly sized area but with a different layout. Currently, it is located in a space that houses the actual lab, staff and graduate assistant offices, and a waiting area. Once the transition takes place, Zavorsky’s office will be located on the second floor of the Mellow Center and there will be limited room for student researchers and research participants to move around or leave their belongings while they are working.

Despite the challenges of moving such a large and technology-driven facility, Zavorsky is optimistic.

“We are going to do whatever we can to make sure the quality [of our work] is as good as it is currently,” he said.