Interior of new downtown building for Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

The new 628,000-square-foot building for the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences is the largest construction project in the university’s 169-year history.

School’s Downtown Move Has Begun, Instruction is Top Priority

Published December 11, 2017

Six years after the decision was made to relocate the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences downtown, the move in is underway.

“Our number one priority is that the building be ready for students when classes start on Jan. 8.”
Senior associate dean for medical curriculum and professor of medicine

The move into the new building at 955 Main St. on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is proceeding in a series of carefully coordinated stages.

In early November, more than 50 of the school’s administrative offices began the first phase of the move; a subsequent move occurred in late November, and additional phases will happen over the next several months.

Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the medical school, described the relocation as “a thoughtfully coordinated move.”

Medical Students Relocate in January

“We designed this move to take several months on purpose,” said Cain. “It’s a complex move and we can’t interrupt classes once they’ve started.”

For that reason, students in the Class of 2021, the school’s largest, began their studies on South Campus in August. They head downtown starting Jan. 8, when all classrooms and instructional facilities will be operational.

“Our number one priority is that the building be ready for students when classes start on Jan. 8,” said Alan J. Lesse, MD, senior associate dean for medical curriculum and professor of medicine.

The new simulation laboratories, where students get their first hands-on experience, must also be ready. This includes the Behling Simulation Center, where students work on extremely lifelike mannequins, and the Clinical Competency Center, where students interact with volunteers specially trained as “standardized patients.”

Moving the equipment in these centers is a multi-stage process. Some equipment was moved in the first phase in early November, but much of it won’t move until the semester is over to ensure that instruction proceeds without disruption.

Moving Research Labs Is ‘Very Challenging Process’

“Moving research labs is a very challenging process, involving many different factors,” said Anthony A. Campagnari, PhD, senior associate dean for research and graduate biomedical education and a professor of microbiology and immunology.

“All research labs are not the same,” he said. “There is often specialized, very expensive equipment that must be disassembled, packed, moved and reassembled by specific vendors to insure proper functioning in the new lab and sometimes to maintain the warranty.”

He said the range of items that need to be carefully packed and handled can pose challenges because labs contain many large pieces of equipment, such as refrigerators, freezers and centrifuges, as well as smaller equipment, such as water baths and pH meters. Chemicals, reagents, cell lines and microorganisms often must be stored and transported at very cold temperatures requiring special packaging and handling.

Laychock Lab Move is Test Case

“Of course, there is the additional issue of timing, as most of the research labs will have ongoing experiments that cannot just be stopped at some random point to move the lab,” Campagnari explained. “This whole complex process must be carefully coordinated with each individual researcher in order to minimize down time.”

The lab of Suzanne G. Laychock, PhD — senior associate dean for faculty affairs and facilities, professor of pharmacology and toxicology and faculty liaison for all matters pertaining to the move — moved on Nov. 16 as a test case of the planned move coordination. 

This first lab move has informed move organizers about logistics for later moves. Most labs will move in January.

Laychock explained that staggering the time between the moves of labs gives researchers and movers “some breathing space.” It also allows for some of the larger equipment, such as freezers and fume hoods, to be up and running before investigators move in.

Supporting Students’ Creative, Musical Activities

In addition to the critical scientific and educational infrastructure, the move will include nonscientific items such as the baby grand piano now stationed in the Lippschutz Room on the South Campus.

“Some of our medical students and faculty are very accomplished musicians and they get a lot of enjoyment from it,” said Laychock.

“Our monthly Music is Medicine lunchtime series in the school atrium will also benefit,” she added. The concert series — developed in 2014 by the Office of Inclusion and Cultural Enhancement and the Jacobs Center for Medical Humanities — gives students and faculty members opportunities to share and showcase their musical interests and embrace creative activities. 

Enthusiastic Response to 1st Phase of Move

While most people haven’t yet moved, the word from those who moved in the first phase has been very positive.

As Nancy H. Nielsen, MD, PhD, senior associate dean for health policy reported last week: “It is a really spectacular building, lots of natural light everywhere, and easy to navigate.”