$35 million medical training center aims to revitalize Butte

BUTTE- At the intersection of Park and Arizona streets, a new four-story building is planned to go up in coming years. It will feature an ambulance bay and helicopter outside, and operating rooms and a conference center inside.

On Monday, the state announced plans for the Praxis Center for Innovative Learning, which will hopefully bring in new jobs and thousands of trainees to Butte. The project is estimated at 85,000 square feet and $35 million.

"It'll be designed to look just like a rural hospital," says Ray Rogers, CEO of the National Center for Health Care Informatics.

Also inside the Praxis Center will be doctors, nurses, EMTs and other medical professionals from all over the country, trying to get a step ahead of challenges they face every day in rural hospitals.

"In a rural setting, their assessment skills have to be a lot higher than even an urban center, because the urban centers have so many specialists," says Pat Dudley, president of NCHCI. "If you go to the hospital you have cardiac specialists, neuro specialists. In a rural setting, they just don't know what's going to walk through the door. And they have to be able to assess and at least stabilize such a wide variety of things."

Rogers says the center will offer mannequin-based training, advanced imaging simulation and some surgery simulations.

Rogers and Dudley are both Butte natives behind the project.

"It's always been our passion to do this project in Butte," Rogers says. "We're headquartered in Butte, we're two Butte guys that have always wanted to do this project here and it's always been our dream to build this facility in Uptown Butte and really have the economic impact of this project occur in Butte."

The Praxis Center is the culmination of Rogers' and Dudley's careers. The nonprofit will operate under the company they currently run, the National Center for Health Care Informatics.

"We've kept this secret for 10 years. We've been working on this for 10 years," Dudley said.

The pair says no other rural training center like Praxis currently exists in the U.S., and they expect to bring in at least 3,000 health care professionals a year. They hope it will create a boost for local businesses and the airport. The center will create an estimated 75 permanent jobs in town, along with construction work awarded to local contractor Markovich Construction.

"We anticipate substantial economic benefit from this and we wanted it to happen in our community," Rogers says.

They say groundbreaking is planned for early 2019.

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