LAWRENCE — Pay no attention to that woman behind the curtain.
She's Jackie Long-Goding, dean of health professions at Northern Essex Community College.
She can often be found behind a privacy screen in the college's mock hospital room, typing away on a laptop or speaking furtively into a microphone, much like the character in the "Wizard of Oz."
But instead of a girl from Kansas and her odd assortment of friends, the target of Long-Goding's secretive machinations is a group of respiratory therapy, paramedic and nursing students hovering over a realistic manikin patient known as Sim-Man.
In the last several years, the college at 24 Franklin St. has invested $100,000 in a family of simulated people that includes Sim-Man and a pregnant woman, plus a child and a baby for pediatric training.
This spring, the two-year college will graduate its first group of students who have been training for a full year on the programmable humanoid robots.
During classes, Long-Goding sits behind the privacy screen typing commands into a laptop connected to the manikin via USB cables. She watches and listens to the students via a Web cam as they puzzle over a series of symptoms.
Long-Goding can change the symptoms depending on what the students do. If they do something wrong, Sim-Man's condition worsens. If they do something right, he gets better. And he, or she, talks to the students either through a microphone or through a series of responses programmed into the computer software.
"I can also make his vital signs change," she said, motioning to a monitor showing the manikin's temperature, oxygen levels, heart rate and other conditions.
Sim-Man sometimes plays a car crash victim, complete with broken arms and legs or bones sticking through his rubbery skin.