Published January 9, 2018
On Monday, 180 first-year medical students attended class for the first time in the new downtown home of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB.
The new building for the Jacobs School was the first to receive NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant funding through NYSUNY 2020, legislation that was signed into law by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in 2011.
After a few weeks of holiday break, some of the students appeared sleepy, unused to waking at such an early hour. But as they entered the state-of-the-art building, they were clearly awed by its dramatic, light-filled atrium and vast, open “collision” spaces.
After sharing hugs and New Year’s wishes with classmates, they settled into their seats in M&T Bank Auditorium, expecting to hear Professor Alan Lesse’s first lecture, “Host Defenses and Hematology.”
But the significance of that first class would not go unnoticed. There were opening remarks from Jacobs School administrators and then a surprise appearance by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who said 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.”
She noted that New York State as a whole has 115 physicians per 100,000 people while Western New York has 90. “We have rural areas we cannot get doctors to go to. I call on you as hometown heroes to get your education here and to seriously think about where you came from.”
From fighting cancer to battling the opioid epidemic, Hochul stressed the new opportunities in clinical medicine and research that are opening up daily on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
“You are the next generation of leaders,” she said, “and your state needs you.”