by Mary Cochrane
The John R. Oishei Foundation has made a gift of $5 million to the University at Buffalo to support construction of the new UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences building on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
The Oishei Foundation gift provides a significant boost to UB's plans to construct a state-of-the art medical school and equip it with the best medical technologies, labs and classrooms to be used in the education and training of physicians.
Construction of the $375 million medical school is scheduled to be completed in 2016, funded by private philanthropy and state support, including funding provided by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo through the NYSUNY 2020 legislation.
A new UB medical school in downtown Buffalo will provide the region with a true academic health center, allowing UB and its hospital partners to work in close proximity and collaboratively to transform Buffalo into an international destination for the best medical research, education and patient care.
Oishei Foundation Board Chairman James Wadsworth said he views the effort as a vehicle for regional development and revitalization.
"The new medical school will strengthen the campus, generate regional economic growth, and help to renew downtown Buffalo's urban vitality," he said.
Oishei Foundation President Robert D. Gioia said the foundation's support signals its belief in what the new medical school means for the future of the region.
"The Oishei Foundation recognizes the new UB medical school as a game-changing addition to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. It will redefine our region as a hub for the very best in health care," he said. "With this gift, we join UB as fellow catalysts for change that will dramatically enhance our community's economic vitality and quality of life."
UB President Satish K. Tripathi said the university is proud to continue partnering with the Oishei Foundation, a prominent leader in philanthropy and regional development collaborations in Western New York.
"We thank the Oishei Foundation for its generous gift and look forward to working with the foundation to establish Buffalo as an academic health center and a top health care destination," Tripathi said. "Throughout its history, the foundation has consistently invested in improving education and health care, and this gift does both. This gift will have a profound impact on this priority project for our university."
Michael Cain, UB vice president for health sciences and dean of the medical school, welcomed the Oishei Foundation's participation in "shaping a bold era of progress, discovery and promise for the medical school."
"This important gift will accelerate creation of the region's first and only academic health center," said Cain, noting such centers typically consist of a medical school, a faculty practice, teaching hospitals, a significant research enterprise and one or more clinical centers of excellence.
"The academic health center will offer unprecedented clinical, research and educational opportunities for our faculty and students," he said. "It also will help improve the health of people who live in Western New York and beyond, as Buffalo develops into a destination for innovative approaches to clinical care and treatment."
Nancy H. Nielsen, M.D., Ph.D., senior associate dean for health policy at the medical school, stressed that private philanthropy is key to completing the new facility, for which the school is raising $50 million in private funds.
"Private donations are important to the success of the new medical school, and we're grateful that the Oishei Foundation has offered such generous support at this critical time," she said.
Cain noted a key part of establishing an academic health center in Buffalo will be hiring as faculty members top physician-scientists, who bring with them clinical specialties the region has needed but lacked, as well as medical training programs in important, new fields.
Locating the new medical school on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus will facilitate collaborations among these highly regarded researchers and educators and their colleagues at partner institutions, including UB's Clinical and Translational Research Center, the Kaleida Health-Gates Vascular Institute, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, John R. Oishei Children's Hospital and Buffalo General Medical Center.
"Such collaborations will result in advancing scientific discoveries that respond to the critical issues we face in the 21st century, improving patient care in our region and better preparing our students to be global leaders," Cain said.
UB and its supporters see the new school as providing a powerful enhancement to health care in the Buffalo-Niagara region, one that will raise the quality of medical students at UB, and attract the best among biomedical researchers and entrepreneurs.
The downtown facility also is expected to generate immediate and long-term economic benefits for Buffalo. Once open, the school will bring 2,000 UB faculty, staff and students to downtown Buffalo daily, a sea change that will increase the population density in the heart of the city while providing opportunities for retail and housing development, incubators, research parks and other economic development opportunities.
UB broke ground in October on the new medical school at Main and High streets, a stone's throw from its original location, next to Buffalo General Hospital, where classes began on Feb. 24, 1847. The first decanal unit within the university, the medical school relocated to High Street in 1893, where it remained for 60 years until 1953, when it moved to its current home on the UB South Campus.
The John R. Oishei Foundation has been a longtime partner to UB, supporting a broad range of projects, including biomedical research, community outreach efforts, educational collaborations and arts-related programs. Examples include the development of UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, the launch of the UB department of biomedical engineering, the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership (with the Buffalo Public Schools and community partners) and the Arts in Healthcare initiative.
The Oishei Foundation's commitment has helped leverage additional dollars from highly competitive sources, while spurring research discoveries and advances in faculty and staff recruitment, education and the continued development of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
HOK, a global design, architecture, engineering and planning firm, unveiled its design for the seven-story building in April. At more than a half-million gross square feet, the steel-framed building will be one of the largest constructed in Buffalo in decades.