Distinguished alum looks to the future of Buffalo’s academic medical center

Dylan Buyskes, Onion Studio, Inc.

Published October 16, 2017

James Marks, MD, MPH, a 1973 graduate of UB’s medical school and executive vice president at the Princeton-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, returned home during Alumni Weekend in October to talk about the economic impact that academic medical centers can have on a city like Buffalo.

Marks has deep roots in the community and over the course of his long career in public health has observed firsthand the mutually beneficial impact that academic medical centers can have on the health and well-being of their surrounding communities.

“Ultimately, the economic success and health of a city and the success of a university and an academic medical center located there are inextricably linked," Marks told an audience who had gathered in the Screening Room of UB’s Center for the Arts to hear the address titled, “Building a Better Future for Buffalo: Academic Medical Centers and Why They Matter.” Medical centers which teach the next generation of physicians are in tune with the latest therapeutics and their research programs put them at the cutting-edge of advances in health care, he said.

Right now, UB’s new medical school building is the largest medical education building under construction in the nation, and the new Oishei Children’s Hospital will open in November. More and more research is being conducted on the campus, by both the public and private sectors, and more research dollars are being invested here.

However, not only does the growth of the medical campus improve the quality of medical education and health outcomes in the region, Marks said, it stands to improve the overall quality of life here by bringing in good jobs, attracting more talent to the region, generating more investment in the city and fostering a renewed sense of optimism about what the Buffalo Niagara region is capable of achieving.

Linking the rise of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus to the redevelopment of Buffalo’s waterfront and the resurgence of neighborhoods such as Buffalo’s Allentown, Larkinville and Elmwood Avenue corridor, he said Buffalo is threatening to become “the next cool city to live, work and play in.”

A successful “meds and eds” strategy, he said, leverages existing anchors such as Canalside and Larkinville and the medical campus to promote redevelopment in the areas between.

Making Buffalo a more vibrant and attractive community attracts even more talent and investment from around the world and, in turn, provides a foundation of support for the continuing success of the academic medical center itself. The notorious “brain drain” which has robbed Western New York of some its most talented and promising young people over the years — if not over — has at least been halted, he declared.

He praised his alma mater for its role in becoming a center of innovation and a prime mover in Buffalo’s renaissance.

In his role as executive vice president, Marks oversees all program, communications, research and policy activities in support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s “Culture of Health” initiative. The foundation is the nation’s largest philanthropic foundation devoted solely to improving public health.