The Armstrong Building sits downhill and slightly to the north of the Hopkins Outpatient Center. Between the two runs a pretty brick promenade that, when the old wind gets to whipping from west to east, can conjure memories of the old TV series The Flying Nun. Ask your grandparents, but essentially the nun’s headgear, tipped toward the wind, allowed her to fly (unnoticed) ahead of an impending moral dilemma and fix things before anyone else got there. It was a simpler time.

Anyway, when the wind on the McElderry Promenade is icy — ah, February … we missed you — it’s a ridiculously harsh passage from Armstrong Hall back to the SON House a couple of blocks over.

So when Academic Program Manager Carol Fleishman offered to reroute my journey through the Outpatient Center and give me a brief tour of the Johns Hopkins Medicine Simulation Center, I didn’t hesitate. It’s fascinating stuff, simulation training. In fact, the Fall/Winter issue of Johns Hopkins Nursing has an article detailing how useful the manikin technology over on the Nursing side has been in pivoting curriculum to meet the needs of modern health care and nursing students. (As well as working with the manikin technology — and a whole bunch of other amazing stuff — Carol recruits and trains real folks to portray patients for simulations of clinician-patient interactions.)

I was curious to see what Medicine had that the School of Nursing sims didn’t, and vice versa. And the detour might save my face from being blown off, so …

“You’ll have to take the stairs,” Carol chirped as we set out.

“How many stairs?” I asked, not knowing what level the Sims Center was on — and carrying a few extra winter pounds.

“I’ve never counted,” my slender new acquaintance said, smiling wickedly. “YOU can always take the elevator.”

NO I could not — and maintain my manly self-respect.

We set off. The stiff breeze took a crack at us as we skittered across the promenade to the windbreak that is the Outpatient Center. I’ve been a patient in this building, and the tenacity of the guards at the approach of an unbadged visitor has always astounded me. None passes without a good explanation and a visitor bracelet. I felt like royalty, then, as my badge earned me a fairly genuine “Good afternoon” and the run of the place. Sweet.

We reached the stairs. Even they didn’t seem so ominous today. It’s a pretty building, and I’d approached the upper floors of the place with far more dread on previous occasions, though always by elevator. Here we go.

One, two floors up, both chatting merrily, me counting stairs. Three, four floors up, Carol chatting merrily. Five, six floors up, I was a little panicky. Oxygen was an issue. Seven floors up, my legs burned. When she pushed open the door to the eighth floor, I exulted! Internally. Then I tried to play it cool … “Yeah, is that all you got?”

But you know how you don’t really start breathing heavily until you stop with the exertion and your body rapidly, repeatedly, and without any respect for your vain attempts at coolness sucks and blows air to try to catch up? Suavity was in far shorter supply even than oxygen.

Carol was having fun with this. She asked a difficult question. Something like, “So how many steps was that?”


Translation: “Golly, what a great many steps!”

Carol just smiled. (I think she’s done this to others. Any other victims out there?) Then she led me to the various simulation and control rooms where instructors share and students learn the magic of saving lives. The manikins looked familiar, the set-up pretty much like Nursing’s. Meaning, pretty cool. Carol explained that a joint sims lab could be in Hopkins’ future, to ease congestion and expand cooperation between the schools of Nursing, Medicine, Pharmacy, and Public Health.

Mind and lungs thus expanded, I wheezily thanked her for the hospitality and headed out. “The stairs are right by the elevators. You can’t miss them!” Carol called out merrily. I tried to smile as she turned and just about skipped back to the lab. Ooh.

Later, once I’d caught my breath, I sent a little e-mail to show my appreciation:


Instead of the steps, I counted the floors … on the way down … on the elevator. 😉


Steve St. Angelo



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