Linda Massey swings open the doors of large kitchen cabinets that store portions of the $10,000 worth of groceries needed over eight weeks for people in a kidney-stone- and low-salt-diet study. Nearby are industrial-sized freezers to keep perishables. The Washington State University Spokane professor of human nutrition is studying the role salt plays in the formation of calcium kidney stones under a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Next door in another lab is a white contraption that might have come straight out of NASA, a six-foot long container with a window. Large enough to hold one person, the “Bod Pod” has instruments to determine body density and fat by measuring how much space a person takes up. Air is pumped in, and instruments measure the amount that air pressure rises.

These are just some of the tools inside the $39 million Health Sciences Building at WSU Spokane that opened in January with state-of-the-art labs and classrooms. The 145,000-square-foot building, the third on the Spokane campus, houses pharmacy, speech and hearing sciences, exercise science, health policy and administration, and food sciences and human nutrition. Other WSU programs inside include the Health Research and Education Center, Area Health Education Center, Washington Institute for Mental Illness Research and Training (WIMIRT), and the Institutional Review Board-Spokane.

EWU programs in physical therapy, occupational therapy, and dental hygiene are also housed here.

Pharmacy students inside the building run a drug information center, fielding calls from regional doctors, nurses, and pharmacists about drug interactions.

Graduate students in the cooperative WSU and Eastern Washington University Programs in Communication Disorders can observe speech and hearing clients in individual therapy rooms. Screened viewing areas allow professors to oversee the work.

The facility is already fostering several interdisciplinary studies, enhancing research and clinical work and expanding partnerships with regional health care institutions. Current research includes the Spokane Heart Study, a joint study by the College of Pharmacy and WIMIRT on the cost effectiveness of newer schizophrenia drug treatments, interdisciplinary work on the effects of the newer antidepressants on sperm DNA damage, and exercise science’s research on how exercise affects the immune system.

The building is expected to boost Spokane’s research programs and attract established investigators, especially in the biomedical arena, says Dennis Dyck, associate dean for research at WSU Spokane and director of WIMIRT.

With 13 hospitals and medical centers, Spokane has the largest regional medical community between Seattle, Salt Lake City, and Minneapolis-St. Paul.