Published January 16, 2018
Alan J. Lesse, MD, senior associate dean for medical curriculum, simply could not wipe the smile off his face Monday morning.
As he welcomed the class of 180 first-year medical students to the first class of the spring semester in the new Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences building, the aura of excitement was palpable.
Just moments before, as many of the students entered the state-of-the-art building for the first time, they were clearly awed by its dramatic, light-filled atrium and vast, open “collision” spaces.
“The new school provides all the necessary structural elements to expand our curriculum and engage students in lifelong learning,” said Lesse, an associate professor of medicine. “The field of medicine changes every single day, and staying abreast of the changes requires learning skills that will prepare students for this reality.”
David A. Milling, MD ’93, senior associate dean for student and academic affairs, was also very happy to be experiencing the culmination of many years of planning.
“It is amazing to actually finally be here with all the students in this facility,” he said.
“The main message for the students is to take advantage of all the technology and space that is provided here, to make use of the fact that we are so closely integrated with our research partners and also to understand that on the medical campus we are also right beside our clinical partners,” said Milling, an associate professor of medicine.
“Also, to understand that they are part of the community. They are embedded in the community as part of the campus.”
Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School, stopped in during a class in the Sol Messenger, MD, ’57 Active Learning Center to welcome students and tell them to enjoy the semester.
“It is wonderful to have the students and faculty all in one building for the first time in 65 years,” he said.
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul made a surprise appearance and told the students their presence that day was historic.
With New York State’s $35 million investment in the new building for the Jacobs School, the medical school’s enrollment was expanded in order to address the region’s and state’s physician shortage. The expansion, coupled with the new building’s world-class facilities, means this group of students is among the first at the Jacobs School to receive the very best in medical education and clinical training.
Hochul asked for a show of hands of how many students were, like her, natives of Western New York. Nearly half raised their hands.
“Ask your parents what it was like to grow up here after Buffalo’s golden age,” she said, referring to the city’s decline that began with the closing of steel mills and other heavy industries in the latter part of the 20th century.
She told the students they are growing up in a different era. “You don’t have that baggage,” she said. “The slate has been wiped clean.”
Hochul conceded that upon graduation, they will have plenty of opportunities to go elsewhere.
“Here’s my plea: Don’t abandon your hometown!” she said. “Western New York needs you.”
For their part, the students themselves were feeding off the energy their new state-of-the-art surroundings were emanating.
“The building is beautiful, which is amazing, but inherent beauty doesn’t necessarily provide a better education,” said Iain Thompson. “What is amazing is the proximity to all the physicians — the access to our professors who work in the hospitals next door. That is the draw.”
First-year student Connor Orrico experienced the connectivity of the medical campus within the first few moments of being there.
“I got a coffee between classes at Oishei Children’s Hospital, and in line I was talking to a grandmother who had a child there who is ill,” he said. “That connected me. It’s really about medicine. It kind of struck me as I was walking back to class. I didn’t realize we would be so connected.”
Karole Collier said she’s most excited about the functionality of the spectacular new building.
“With all of the technological advances at the school, there is a lot more that you are able to just have at your fingertips,” she said. “We have seen a complete transformation in medical education in the last decade, and I feel this really puts us at the tiptop in intervention in terms of what we learn and how we learn.”
“I am really excited about the attention that is coming to the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences,” Collier said. “It is an incredible time to be in Buffalo. The opportunities are outstanding.”
Lesse said “the environment of a true medical complex — with a consolidation of clinical, basic science and real-world health care, all in the same geographic area — simply facilitates learning, making it more enticing and understandable as we go from bench to bedside.”
“The open architecture and use of windows in our new school creates an environment that is so strongly conducive to collaboration and learning. I get that feeling every time I walk in,” he said. “This is an amazing environment. I wish I were a student again.”