Byron Brown, Jeremy Jacobs, Kathy Hochul, Satish Tripathi, Michael Cain, MD, and Laura Reed prepare to cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the new medical school building.

New Jacobs School Building Gets Rave Reviews at Opening

Published December 13, 2017

The vision that was a decade in the making was celebrated on Tuesday with the grand opening of the spectacular new home of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

New Era for UB, Medical School, Region

Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the medical school, thanked everyone who had a part in the project.

“It took many of us working together as a community to achieve this goal, and here we are celebrating the official grand opening of this magnificent new space, the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo,” Cain said. ”This is truly a seminal moment. We’re celebrating much more than a new building today; this is the start of a new era for the University at Buffalo, for our medical school and for this entire region.”

New Building Builds Commitment to Community

Jeremy Jacobs, UB Council chairman and philanthropist, spoke with pride about the project.

“This is an exciting day for UB, for Western New York, and certainly for my family,” Jacobs said, 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 health care 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.”

Jacobs also highlighted the vision Gov. Andrew Cuomo had in making the new building a reality.

“We stand here today celebrating the achievement of Gov. Cuomo’s vision,” said Jacobs. “His investment in UB is our region’s greatest economical development success story. It has created jobs, dramatically increased the value of real estate and raised the quality of life for our residents. This medical school is the most impressive and state-of-the-art building of its kind in the country — and perhaps the world.”

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.

Hochul: ‘This Is One of the Proudest Days of My Life’

“I am so excited about this building. I really believe this is going to be a catalyst for change because this puts Buffalo on the map,” said Lieutenant Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Buffalo native. “When you’re trying to recruit the best and the brightest they can go to medical school anywhere they want. And now they have a chance to come and see a community that’s on fire. Today marks a new beginning — for this community, this neighborhood, the medical profession — for all of us who call Buffalo home. This is one of the proudest days of my life.”

Hochul spoke about how important Buffalo is to Gov. Cuomo, who would often hear stories of the city from the late journalist Tim Russert. They hoped for a rebirth in the city, she said, “something that is finally happening.”

Move Downtown Was a Decade in the Making

The massive $375 million, 628,000-square-foot building officially opened at 955 Main St., on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC).

“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.

Tripathi said when school and community leaders thought of the move a decade ago, UB didn’t own the land the building now sits on and didn’t know if it was even possible to acquire the land.

“To gaze upon the finished product is to truly appreciate what a breathtaking building it is,” Tripathi said. “I believe the future of medicine in Buffalo is bright indeed.”

Tripathi also recognized the contributions of Cuomo and Jacobs.

“We are so indebted to Gov. 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,” Tripathi said.

“This defining and transformative moment would also not have been possible without the incredible support and generosity of Jeremy Jacobs and his family, for whom the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences is named,” Tripathi added.

Mayor Speaks About a Better Future

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown spoke of the impact on the city.

“We are not just cutting the ribbon on another new and magnificent building, we are opening the doors to a healthier, wealthier and smarter future for our community and our children and succeeding generations,” Brown said.

Medical Students Excited About Move to New Building

Laura Reed, a member of the Class of 2020, represented the medical school students.

“I’m sure I can speak for all medical students here when I say we’re thrilled and privileged to be part of the move to the new medical school campus,” Reed said.  

Move Offers Opportunities to Foster Collaboration

The building was the first to receive NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant funding through NYSUNY 2020, legislation that was signed into law by Gov. 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.

The new building is just steps away from where the medical school was located from 1893 to 1953, before moving to UB’s South Campus.

“It reunites our faculty conducting research, who have been located on the university’s South Campus, with those involved in patient care in our partner institutions. This building fully integrates medical education into Buffalo’s growing academic health center, emphasizing interdisciplinary collaboration and strengthening our relationships with our clinical partners,” Cain said.

“A medical school that is just steps away from UBMD Physicians’ Group at Conventus, John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital, Buffalo General Medical Center, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and all of our other partners will foster synergies that will expand and improve health care in Western New York,” Cain added.

Class Size Expanded By 25 Percent

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 the medical school’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.

Move Acts as a Catalyst for Economic Development

The move of the Jacobs School to the BNMC 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, in turn, creating new medical technologies and spinoff 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 before the move to the South Campus. The lanterns were restored by Ewa K. Stachowiak, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences, and Brian Koyn, in the UB health science fabrication department, who used a 3-D printer to restore missing and decaying lantern pieces with exact replicas of the original metalwork.

Design Encourages Active Learning

The building design was produced by HOK, a global design, architecture, engineering and planning firm, which was selected for the project by UB in 2012 after winning an international competition to develop the best design concepts for the new Jacobs School building.

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 six-story, light-filled atrium, comprising more than 19,000 feet of glass, fosters collegiality and a strong sense of community.

A key educational attribute of the building is its emphasis on 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 but 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 gain interprofessional training using life-like mannequins in realistic medical scenarios, to the Clinical Competency Center, where students 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.

Generous Donations Helped Make Dream Possible

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 who gave to a $200 million campaign for the medical school.