Innovative learning takes center stage

Couple’s gift helps UF advance medical education through innovative and high-tech teaching approaches.

If there is one thing Lou Oberndorf knows, it’s that the human brain learns differently when faced with real-life distractions, as opposed to learning information in a book or hearing it in a lecture — even if those distractions are simulated.

With that understanding, Oberndorf built a company — and helped create an industry — that changed the landscape of health care education through the use of innovative technology that was developed at UF. Now, shortly after retiring from the company he founded, Medical Education Technologies Inc., Oberndorf and his wife, Rosemary, continue to impact medical education and help advance it well into the 21st century.

With a $1 million contribution from the Oberndorfs to the new Medical Education Building fund, the College of Medicine moves forward with its plan to design a state-of-the-art experiential learning theater that uses simulation technology to teach students and professionals complicated, high-risk skills.

“Most of our philanthropy centers around scholarship and providing opportunities for education and not necessarily bricks and mortar,” said Oberndorf from his home in Sarasota. “But it made sense to us to make a significant contribution that would have a long-term effect on advancing medical education.”

Oberndorf’s first experience with UF came in 1994 when he was vice president of a defense and aerospace technology firm and was introduced to the Human Patient Simulator, which was invented by a team of UF anesthesiologists and engineers, including Michael L. Good, MD, the current dean of the college.

“The power of the simulator was automatic, and we understood its potential,” Oberndorf said. “It has changed the way medical education technology is thought of.”

Oberndorf founded METI based on that technology, making it the world’s leading health care simulation and education company. METI was sold to Montreal-based CAE Inc. in 2011.

In recognition of the Oberndorf’s gift, the College of Medicine will name the specially designed simulation theater in the new building the Louis H. Oberndorf Experiential Learning Theater. The theater will be a key component to the college’s plan to consolidate and strengthen its simulation programs as charted in the revamped medical education curriculum.

The Oberndorfs, who also have contributed to the university’s Florida Opportunity Scholars program, believe strongly in the power of education and providing opportunities to students of all ages. They also believe in the power of the technology that helped advance medical education.

“It is time for UF to regain its preeminent position in innovative medical education technology,” Oberndorf said. “The Human Patient Simulator was a seminal moment in health care education, and that’s the idea behind the theater — taking advantage of 21st century technology for learning.”