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UB Breaks Ground for New Medical School

6:00 PM, Oct 15, 2013   |    comments
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BUFFALO - It's no longer just an idea, a loose concept or a far-fetched fantasy.

Starting with the ground breaking ceremony on Tuesday for a $375 million medical school facility, the University at Buffalo says its attempt to increase its status as an academic institution and cement its presence in the city of Buffalo officially became a reality.

"This," UB President Satish Tripathi said, "is a milestone."

"It's not what it was, it's what it will be," said NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo, regarding what he's come to commonly refer to as the "New Buffalo".

Cuomo, who also attended the ground breaking, noted the irony of what he called a bright new day for the region, falling on the anniversary of one of its darkest ones.

"October 15, 1982, 31 years ago today Lackawanna (Bethlehem) steel closed laying off 6,000 people....and it symbolized the end of an era and started a very long period of of decline for Buffalo," Cuomo said. "Today's ground breaking of a new medical school here at the University of Buffalo is yet another demonstration of the state's commitment to revitalizing Western New York and bring Buffalo back stronger than ever before."

By bringing 2,000 faculty, staff and students to this place on a daily basis when it's finished, UB predicts it's new School of Medicine will have a huge impact on the surrounding community, beyond the campus. ...and that it's actually designed to do that.

"It does not have a cafeteria," explained Michael Cain, Dean of the School Of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. "Because we want to encourage students and faculty to engage the community and allow the community to provide new businesses to help support the community. We're not building dormitories because we want the community to be responsive to provide housing for our students...and provide an opportunity for the community to transform itself the way we're transforming medicine."

Tripathi said the medical school project is scheduled to open "on time and on budget" in the fall of 2016. The new facility will allow the school to increase its medical school graduating class sizes from 140 to 180, a significant bump which could, down the road, help solve part of New York's doctor shortage problems. More students will mean more faculty members - 100 new hires, to be exact. In total, Tripathi estimates the medical school alone could bring 2,000 new people to downtown Buffalo.

Tripathi said the medical school project is scheduled to open "on time and on budget" in the fall of 2016. The new facility will allow the school to increase its medical school graduating class sizes from 140 to 180, a significant bump which could, down the road, help solve part of New York's doctor shortage problems. More students will mean more faculty members - 100 new hires, to be exact. In total, Tripathi estimates the medical school alone could bring 2,000 new people to downtown Buffalo.

The North Campus in Amherst will remain the largest and most centralized entity at UB, but the medical school's expansion to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus establishes a new presence in the city.

"No great city is a great city without a great university, and no great university is a great university without a great city," Tripathi said. "So this is really important for us to be a part of Buffalo."

It's also good news for the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and its highly-publicized revitalization efforts, which even warranted a mention in The New York Times this summer. Those 2,000 new people from UB's medical school all represent potential customers for area shops and businesses, which is exactly why Roly Poly manager Ken Sfeir said he chose to move his franchise here this July. Sfeir, who used to work in the hardware business before switching to Roly Poly and the sandwich business, said he wanted to stay in Buffalo and figured he'd take advantage of the city's hot spot.

"This, to me, was the only place to go," Sfeir said. "This is the growth area. This is where everything is happening."

Just a block from his shop on Main Street, construction crews chipped away with cranes and other equipment on the medical corridor. That's a common sight in Buffalo these days, both in this particular area as well as the waterfront.

"You can feel it. Every day there's changes. Seeing cranes for the first time, construction workers walking around, things are happening, buildings going up. It's exciting," Sfeir said.

Tripathi called UB's medical school a "part of the puzzle" for the medical campus. From the university's perspective, Tripathi also hailed the new facility as a way to keep medical school students in close proximity to their teachers and physicians.

"We always have presence in the city but this will really makes it a tangible place with the medical school, which is a fairly large unit, being right in downtown," Tripathi said.

It's also terrific news for the sandwich shops.

"Welcome!" Sfeir said, smiling widely at the prospect of so many new customers. "The area's been very receptive to us, and we're having a lot of fun, and we're growing with the area."

Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Dave Harrington. Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2

WGRZ-TV, wgrz.com, AP

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