ON FEB. 24, 1847, a group of aspiring physicians walked into a leased Baptist church at the corner of Washington and Seneca streets to report for class in the first decanal unit of the newly chartered University of Buffalo.
Back then, it was known simply as the Medical Department.
Head 2 miles north and fast forward 171 years. On Jan. 8, the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences made history anew when the Class of 2021 attended the first lectures in the school’s new downtown home.
It is astounding to consider the advances that have taken place in the medical field from the time of our university’s founding, as a private medical school, to today.
Think antibiotics and antivirals. Ultrasound, X-rays and CT scans. The polio vaccine, cancer detection and treatment. The first practical implantable pacemaker, to name a UB breakthrough. Organ transplantation, open-heart surgery, robotic surgery. These are but a handful of the groundbreaking discoveries that have saved millions of lives while contributing to a life expectancy that has more than doubled the world over.
Throughout this extraordinary medical revolution, the Jacobs School has remained as constant to its core mission as the day our first medical school students answered their calling inside a leased Baptist church.
That mission? To cultivate exceptionally well-trained, civic-minded physicians who are dedicated to delivering exemplary care.
As we celebrate our decade-long dream of returning the Jacobs School to its downtown roots, we also recognize how this 21st-century building empowers us to dig deeper still into a commitment forged during the 19th century.
The move to our downtown campus situates the Jacobs School within steps of many of our key hospital partners, so we can enhance patient care while equipping our students for even greater success in an evolving health care landscape. It will help us further our research innovations as we continue to improve health and wellness for our region and our world. And it has enabled us to expand our class size, allowing us to fill physician shortages in critical specialties while building on UB’s longstanding tradition of serving society’s most vulnerable.
It is a notable coincidence that UB was founded as a medical school during this region’s heyday while, today, the school’s return downtown intersects with a dazzling regional renaissance.
In 1847, Buffalo was an Erie Canal boomtown and the gateway to the West. In 2018, Western New York has refashioned itself into a thriving knowledge-based economy, with UB playing a pivotal role in the metamorphosis—most recently by anchoring the building for the Jacobs School to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
Whenever I visit the new building, I recall the first time I saw its architectural renderings.
The world-class design was a sight to behold. Today, to gaze upon the finished product is to fully appreciate just how breathtaking it is.
Truly, this magnificent new structure has redefined Buffalo’s skyline.
But much like the medical school’s first students and original faculty members—several of whom are considered unquestioned giants in their fields to this day—it is the people teaching, training and conducting research inside who will redefine medicine, for this region and well beyond.