Published August 18, 2021
When Stacey A. Watt, MD, heard that Michael E. Cain, MD, was stepping down as dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, she tried to think of a way to honor the man who had done so much for her and for so many others associated with the school.
She settled on building him a replica of the Jacobs School building made entirely out of Lego pieces.
“I wanted to do something special. Dr. Cain built a medical school for all of us, so I thought it only fitting that someone build a medical school for him,” said Watt, clinical professor of anesthesiology.
Cain, who is also stepping down from his post as vice president for health sciences, was instrumental in getting the spectacular $375 million building — which opened in 2017 — built in downtown Buffalo.
“This is on behalf of all the people he’s helped,” said Watt, who is director of the anesthesiology residency program.
Cain didn’t know about the gift in advance, and was clearly touched when he lifted the box to unveil the replica.
“Stacey, thank you very much. It’s fantastic,” said Cain, who will assume a faculty position in the Department of Medicine’s Division of Cardiovascular Medicine. “This is something that will go in my memory bank for its uniqueness. It’s incredibly meaningful.”
The project took four months. Watt worked with Benjamin Radell — known as Ben the Lego Man — a Michigan resident who specializes in Lego designs. A Lego program shows what size and color bricks are needed for a project. She used approximately 4,500 individual Lego pieces in the finished work.
“Ben and I worked together to get the specs for the building and then translated that into Legos. After that, I bought the custom Lego pieces and then started assembling,” said Watt, who earned her medical degree from SUNY Upstate Medical University.
Watt had planned to have it ready a couple of weeks before the unveiling.
“Then we had a roofing problem. I had to take apart the roof again, and then I had to wait for two custom pieces to come in,” said Watt, who completed an anesthesiology residency and a pediatric anesthesiology fellowship at UB. “I wanted it right, and it had to be perfect. In the end, it was worth the wait — and worth the effort.”
Cain was Watt’s mentor when she was studying for her master of business administration degree from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.
“He graciously allowed me to shadow him to learn about leadership in education and in the community. I learned a lot from him,” said Watt, chief of service in the Department of Anesthesiology at Kaleida Health. “He let me sit in on meetings and he really coached me on how to lead, which I thought said a lot about his character. I took a lot of the lessons he shared with me and immediately was able to utilize them in my own practice and my own career path.”
Despite how well the project turned out, Watt isn’t about to give up medicine for Lego design any time soon.
“It was well worth the effort. But if anyone asks me to build another one, the answer is no,” she said with a laugh. “As much as I loved doing this, one is good.”