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Instruction the priority as Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical heads downtown

A worker rolls boxes of office files through one of the new medical school's many glass-walled corridors. See more photos. Photo: Douglas Levere

By ELLEN GOLDBAUM

Published November 13, 2017

“Our number one priority is that the building be ready for students when classes start on Jan. 8.”
Alan J. Lesse, senior associate dean for medical curriculum
Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

It has begun. Six years after the decision was made to relocate the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences downtown, the move-in is underway.

Up the street from the new John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital, where physicians (including UB faculty), staff and patients relocated last week, the move into the sparkling new downtown home of the Jacobs School at 955 Main St. on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is proceeding in a series of carefully coordinated stages.

Earlier this month, more than 50 administrative offices constituted the first phase of the move; the next one occurs later this month, with additional phases happening over the next several months.

Michael E. Cain, vice president for health sciences and dean of the medical school, described the relocation as “a thoughtfully coordinated move.”

A complex move

“We designed this move to take several months on purpose,” Cain says. “It’s a complex move and we can’t interrupt classes once they’ve started.”

For that reason, students in the Class of 2021, the school’s largest, began their studies on the South Campus in August. They head downtown starting Jan. 8, when all classrooms and instructional facilities will be operational.

“Our number one priority is that the building be ready for students when classes start on Jan. 8,” says Alan J. Lesse, senior associate dean for medical curriculum and professor of medicine.

For that reason, the school’s new simulation laboratories, where students get their first hands-on experience, must also be ready. This includes the Behling Simulation Center, where students work on extremely lifelike mannequins, and the Clinical Competency Center, where students interact with volunteers specially trained as “standardized patients.”

Moving the equipment in these centers and its mannequins is a multi-stage process. Some equipment was moved in the first phase earlier this month, but much of it won’t move until the semester is over to ensure that instruction proceeds without disruption.

Research labs biggest challenge

While the need to have the instructional facilities up and running is challenging enough, the biggest challenge may be that posed by the Jacobs School’s many biomedical science research labs, which will move to floors three, four and five in the new building.

“Moving research labs is a very challenging process, involving many different factors,” notes Anthony A. Campagnari, senior associate dean for research and graduate biomedical education, and a professor of microbiology/immunology.

“All research labs are not the same,” he explains. “There is often specialized, very expensive equipment that must be disassembled, packed, moved and reassembled by specific vendors to insure proper functioning in the new lab and sometimes to maintain the warranty.”

He says the sheer range of items that need to be carefully packed and handled can pose challenges because labs contain many large pieces of equipment, such as refrigerators, freezers and centrifuges, as well as smaller equipment, like water baths and pH meters.  

“Most labs also have a significant array of glassware and each piece must be individually wrapped,” he says. “All chemicals and reagents must be clearly labeled and any hazardous materials require specialized packaging and transport by authorized personnel such as UB’s Environmental Health and Safety staff.”

Handle with care

Chemicals, reagents, cell lines and microorganisms often must be stored and transported at very cold temperatures (-80 degrees Celsius) requiring special packaging and handling.

“Of course, there is the additional issue of timing, as most of the research labs will have ongoing experiments that cannot just be stopped at some random point to move the lab,” Campagnari says. “This whole complex process must be carefully coordinated with each individual researcher in order to minimize down time.”

Suzanne Laychock, senior associate dean for faculty affairs and facilities, professor of pharmacology and toxicology, and faculty liaison for all matters pertaining to the move, says staggering the time between the moves of labs gives researchers and movers “some breathing space.” It also allows for some of the larger equipment, such as freezers and fume hoods, to be installed and up and running before investigators move in.

Most labs will move in January through March with the exception of Laychock’s lab, which is moving this Thursday as a test case of the planned move coordination. This first lab move will inform the move organizers about whether the logistics are on target or need to be modified for later moves.

Baby grand makes the move

In addition to the critical scientific and educational infrastructure, the move also will include some items of sentimental value, including the baby grand piano now stationed in the Lippschutz Room in the Biomedical Education Building on the South Campus.

“I refused to leave the piano behind,” Laychock says. “Some of our medical students and faculty are very accomplished musicians and they get a lot of enjoyment from it. Our monthly Music is Medicine lunchtime series in the school atrium will also benefit.”

She notes the piano is scheduled to be moved this month, possibly in time to add to the festivities at the building’s donor reception on Nov. 28 and the grand opening in early December.

While most people haven’t yet moved, the word from the pioneers who moved in the first phase has been very positive.

“It is a really spectacular building, lots of natural light everywhere, and easy to navigate,” Nancy Nielsen, senior associate dean for health policy, reported last week. “Everything was delivered in good shape. The movers executed flawlessly with my packed boxes. My computer, printer and phone worked immediately. We need to thank the many, many folks who are making our momentous move possible.”

In addition to the medical school staff, and staff from University Facilities and Environmental Health and Safety, those who are making the move a success include the move consultants, Vargas Associates Inc., and the moving company, Corrigan Moving Systems.