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University at Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Officially Opens

HOK’s design for the new facility allows UB to train more doctors, achieve breakthroughs in biomedical research and transform healthcare in Buffalo.

Sixty-four years after moving to the University at Buffalo’s South Campus, the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences has returned to downtown Buffalo. The $375 million, 628,000-sq.-ft. building officially opened today at 955 Main St., just steps from where it was located from 1893 to 1953.

The building was the first to receive NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant funding through NYSUNY 2020, legislation that was signed into law by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in 2011. The initiative has spurred economic growth across the state and strengthened the academic programs of New York’s public universities and colleges. The mission of the NYSUNY 2020 program is to elevate SUNY as a catalyst for regional economic development and affordable education.

Watch this time-lapse video of the construction:

“Western New York’s transformation into a national health sciences hub continues to grow as the new Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences building opens its doors to the future leaders of 21st-century medicine, research and technology,” Governor Cuomo said. “By moving this state-of-the-art facility downtown, we strengthen Buffalo’s economy while helping to ensure the city’s growth and development continues strong.”

“Moving the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences downtown is a major milestone for the University at Buffalo that has been a decade in the making,” said UB President Satish K. Tripathi. “UB is now poised to achieve our vision of excellence in medical education, research and patient care. We are so indebted to Governor Cuomo, who shared and supported our vision all along. From the very beginning, he, along with the Western New York state delegation, saw the great potential in moving the Jacobs School to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and recognized the pivotal role it could play in the remarkable transformation of our region. Governor Cuomo advanced our vision by signing the historic New York SUNY 2020 legislation into law.”

“My family is thrilled to join UB and our elected officials at today’s ribbon-cutting ceremony,” said Jeremy M. Jacobs, UB Council chairman, whose family’s historic $30 million gift was critical to the medical school’s move downtown. “The new medical school building fulfills the collaborative and innovative vision of the medical campus, which will have a transformative impact on healthcare in Western New York. By moving the school downtown, UB is enhancing its role in the fabric of our city and furthering its commitment to our community.”

“We are honored to have been selected by the University to be involved in the largest new building in downtown Buffalo in decades and enjoyed collaborating with the dean, faculty and Mr. Jacobs,” said Kenneth Drucker, FAIA, design principal for HOK, which won an international competition to design the building. “Our design reflects the renewed optimism of the city. The building’s exterior relates to the character of Buffalo and the Allentown neighborhood while creating a new interdisciplinary medical learning environment. I hope that the new atrium becomes a beehive of activity for the whole Buffalo Niagara campus.”

Addressing the Physician Shortage and Benefiting the Region

The new building allows the Jacobs School to expand its class size by 25 percent, from 144 to 180 students, training many more doctors to address local and national physician shortages. This year, the Jacobs School admitted its first class of 180 students; by 2021, the school’s enrollment will reach 720 students.

That expansion, in turn, boosts UB’s ability to recruit and retain world-class faculty with medical expertise in specialties that the region sorely lacks so that Western New Yorkers do not have to leave town for specialty care.The move of the Jacobs School to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus bolsters the city’s biomedical sector as a catalyst for regional economic development. Medical innovations will result from increased synergies with the clinical and research partners on the medical campus, creating new medical technologies and spin-off businesses.

Deliberately positioned as a “gateway” to the medical campus, the building features a pedestrian walkway from Allen Street and the vibrant Allentown neighborhood to Washington Street.

The building’s sustainable features include bicycles available to rent in the walkway and the NFTA Metro station, which is located under the building, a first for Buffalo, so that the public can readily access the medical campus from the Allen/Medical Campus station.

A 32-foot tall, two-story light tower at the Main and High streets entrance functions as the building’s signature feature, a beacon, often lit in UB blue, but which can beam virtually any color, which architects intended as emblematic of the school’s return to its downtown roots. Just upstairs, on the second floor, in a more concrete nod to the historic past of the Jacobs School, hangs a pair of lanterns. Originally gaslights, they illuminated the High Street medical school lobby from 1893 until 1953 when the medical school moved to the UB South Campus on Main Street. The lanterns were restored by Ewa Stachowiak, assistant professor in the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences and Brian Koyn, in the UB health sciences fabrication department who used a 3-D printer to restore missing and decaying lantern pieces with exact replicas of the original metalwork.

Active Learning

Through its classrooms and open spaces called “learning landscapes,” the Jacobs School’s new building promotes collaborative interactions among faculty and students. Its huge, open seven-story, light-filled atrium, comprising more than 19,000 feet of glass, fosters collegiality and a strong sense of community.

The building emphasizes active learning classrooms, which contain triangular tables that are fully electronic so that any student, even in a class of 180, can not only contribute but also present data to the entire group with the touch of a button.

Small classroom and study spaces are available throughout the building, all with optimal technology connections.

A casual café is located on the second floor. For full-service dining options, faculty, staff and students will be encouraged to patronize local businesses—a deliberate feature of the building.

State-of-the-art laboratory spaces on the building’s third, fourth and fifth floors are modern and light-filled.

The sixth floor includes expanded facilities where students will hone their skills, from the Behling Simulation Center, where students will gain interprofessional training using life-like mannequins in realistic medical scenarios, to the Clinical Competency Center, where students will interact in scripted clinical scenarios using standardized patient volunteers.

Students, medical residents and professionals also will have access to the building’s surgical suites and robotics suites, where they will be trained in the newest surgical and robotics skills. In addition to the traditional gross anatomy training using cadavers, students will have access to visualizations of the cadavers, providing far more detailed anatomical information.

Historic Support and Generosity

In addition to the support provided by Gov. Cuomo, the new building was made possible through state and UB capital appropriations and support from the UB Foundation, as well as the generosity of alumni, community leaders, corporations and foundations that gave to a $200 million campaign for the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, including a historic $30 million gift from Jeremy M. Jacobs and family.

In recognition of the Jacobs family gift and Jacobs’ tremendous service and philanthropy to the university, the medical school in 2015 was named in their honor.

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