Campus News

Cain stepping down as VP, Jacobs School dean

Michael Cain, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School, stands with a model of the new medical school building that would be built on the Downtown Campus. Photo: Douglas Levere


Published April 27, 2021

“Quite simply put, Cain is peerless. ”
President Satish K. Tripathi

Michael E. Cain, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB and the leader whose vision has fundamentally transformed and elevated every facet of medical training, biomedical research and clinical care in Buffalo, has announced he will step down from these posts, effective Aug. 31.

After serving 15 years as dean of the Jacobs School and 10 years as vice president for health sciences, Cain will assume a faculty position in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine in the Jacobs School’s Department of Medicine and focus his effort on continuously enhancing the school’s educational, research and clinical care learning environments.

“An exemplary leader and a true visionary, Cain has left an indelible mark on our university community, and our broader region, by elevating every facet of medical education and training, biomedical research and clinical care,” says President Satish K. Tripathi. “His enduring commitment to UB’s mission of excellence has profoundly enhanced the impact and stature of the Jacobs School and all of UB’s health science schools — and this, in turn, has contributed immeasurably to the health and vitality of Western New York.

“Quite simply put, Cain is peerless,” Tripathi says. “As we celebrate our university’s 175th anniversary this year — a university, I note, that was founded as a medical school — we can also celebrate the extraordinary legacy that Cain leaves as dean and vice president. I am deeply grateful that he will continue to contribute his wealth of knowledge and expertise to our Jacobs School students, our university and our broader community as a faculty member.”

Cain was appointed dean of the Jacobs School in 2006 and vice president for health sciences at UB in 2011. In his health sciences role, he has led the university’s five health sciences schools: the Jacobs School, School of Dental Medicine, School of Nursing, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and the School of Public Health and Health Professions.

He also serves as professor of medicine and professor of biomedical engineering.

“UB has been incredibly fortunate to have the academic and personal leadership of Michael Cain as dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences for the past 15 years,” says A. Scott Weber, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

“In addition to his extraordinary strengths as a faculty colleague, dean, vice president and visionary community leader, Michael is an exceptional person, approaching every aspect of his work with the highest level of authenticity, integrity and professionalism. He works tirelessly in support of his faculty, staff, students and community, and has had an incredible impact on not only UB, but the entire Western New York community,” Weber says.

“At the end of the day, Michael’s legacy will not only be the exceptional achievements of his tenures as dean of the Jacobs School and vice president for health sciences, but also the outstanding example he has set for all of us at UB.” 

Considered one of the most successful and effective deans in UB’s 175-year history, Cain has led the medical school through its most significant transformation. His extraordinary career at UB has allowed for a dramatic reimagining of how and where medical training, research and clinical care could best succeed in Buffalo, starting with the concept of the academic health center.

Michael Cain in the new medical school building under construction on the Downtown Campus. Photo: Douglas Levere

Building region’s first academic health center

Cain’s tenure at UB affected so many critical pieces of the health sciences, but the most significant was his unwavering commitment to expand the medical school and bring it and its research labs to the Fruit Belt neighborhood in downtown Buffalo, closer to UB’s clinical partners. His overriding goal was to create a regional academic health center (AHC) that brings together the expertise of clinicians, educators and researchers across all of UB’s five health sciences schools and the School of Social Work to improve the understanding and treatment of disease.

Cain’s achievement in creating Buffalo’s AHC has resulted in leveraging the region’s rich potential, bringing together the talents of clinicians, educators and researchers in an innovative learning environment to foster discovery within the health sciences.

Cain’s vision for an AHC in Buffalo began with his first interviews at UB. He was the catalyst for the development of a comprehensive plan to design and construct an expanded and greatly modernized medical school building downtown, just steps from UB’s clinical partners, fostering collaboration and new discoveries.

Today, anchored by the new medical school and UB’s Clinical and Translational Research Center, and in partnership with Kaleida Health, Erie County Medical Center, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Western New York VA Hospital, Buffalo’s AHC combines superior medical education, clinical care and research to create a dynamic environment focused on improving patient care and health outcomes in Western New York. It is widely felt that this development simply would not have occurred without Cain’s leadership.

Michael Cain signs a beam as exterior construction of the new medical school building is completed in March 2016. Photo: Sandra Kicman

A new medical school building downtown

Cain spearheaded construction of the central piece of the AHC: a new, 640,000-square-foot medical school and research building designed for innovative undergraduate and graduate education. With the new building, Cain and his colleagues realized their shared vision for transforming medical education for UB students, as the building’s modular state-of-the-art learning environments embody an innovative, “active learning” teaching philosophy.

The new building also allowed Cain to accomplish the expansion the school needed in order to address national and local physician shortages. With the new building, the medical school increased class size by 25%, from 144 to 180 students, in line with recommendations of the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Cain, through the Jacobs School’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, has also expanded the number of early opportunity, pipeline and mentored research programs for underrepresented students at the undergraduate, graduate and professional student levels, and boosted the percentage of underrepresented minorities from 6.4% to 19%.

The building’s location in the center of the city has also facilitated closer connections between medical students and faculty with underserved populations, helping develop a greater understanding of health disparities, and opportunities to address them.

Michael Cain speaks at the grand opening in September 2012 of the Pharmacy Building, home of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Photo: Douglas Levere

New departments, new programs

Cain’s understanding of the critical role that interdisciplinary fields play in the study and practice of medicine led him to develop a number of cross-disciplinary programs. He co-led formation of the joint Department of Biomedical Engineering with the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and, in partnership with the College of Arts and Sciences, established a new undergraduate major in neuroscience.

He foresaw the rapid emergence of the field of biomedical informatics and established UB’s Department of Biomedical Informatics with programs at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels.

As vice president for health sciences, Cain embraced the idea that quality health care depends on strong interprofessional relationships among health professionals. He established the Office for Interprofessional Education, which now serves approximately 2,500 students in 12 health profession education programs across eight schools.

Michael Cain signs a MOU (memorandum of understanding) between UB and the Indian Health Service in 2013 at a ceremony at UB's Clinical and Translational Research Center on the Downtown Campus. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi

Transforming infrastructure of education

To promote excellence among medical educators, Cain established the Medical Education and Educational Research Institute, which supports, advances and recognizes Jacobs School faculty and instructional staff in teaching, learning, scholarship in education, mentoring and peer coaching.  

Cain also established units responsible for various administrative functions integral to maintaining excellence throughout all the facets of medical education. He established the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which  embraces cultural differences as a means to achieve excellence.

Other administrative functions he has established include the Office for Clinical Affairs, the Office for Health Policy and the Office of Accreditation and Quality Improvement.

Michael Cain speaks during the ribbon-cutting of the School of Dental Medicine's S-Miles To Go dental van at Squire Hall. Photo: Douglas Levere

Advancing research discoveries

Cain led the effort to build the 170,000-square-foot Clinical and Translational Research Center (CTRC), facilitating student and resident participation in mentored research training and promoting scientific curiosity. Cain’s goal was to strengthen UB’s work in translational science. And under his leadership, UB was awarded its first Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) in 2015, a $15 million award from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health.

That award was renewed in 2020 with a five-year, $21.7 million award to continue the CTRC’s work of innovating and speeding development of new treatments for disease, reducing health disparities and allowing more Western New Yorkers to benefit from clinical research through UB’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

The CTSA was also responsible for the significant increase in the number of clinical trials available to all Western New Yorkers. To support these trials, Cain adopted a model used in the Department of Medicine and established the UB Clinical Research Office, a joint venture with the UB Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development. Cain also increased annual research expenditures for the Jacobs School to more than $90 million from sponsored extramural grants and contracts.

The CTSA was the catalyst for intensive discussions with community leaders that resulted in UB’s establishment of UB’s Community Health Equity Research Institute in 2019 to address health inequities that primarily affect Black and Brown Americans living in specific ZIP codes on the East Side of Buffalo, where health disparities are greatest. It emerged out of collaborations between UB and Buffalo’s African American Health Equity Task Force.

From left: Senior Associate Dean Nancy Nielsen and President Satish K. Tripathi join Michael Cain at the preview of the new medical school building. Photo: Douglas Levere

Recruiting world-class talent

Long before the new Jacobs School building opened in 2017, Cain was promoting the rich potential of the Buffalo AHC to recruit world-class chairs and program leaders to UB. During his tenure, he recruited or appointed 23 new department chairs and 17 new senior or associate deans. Cain also awarded nine new endowed professorships and chairs.

Cain recruited new UB medical school faculty from some of the world’s most esteemed institutions, including Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania and Northwestern University. These faculty have, in turn, recruited rising stars to their departments and programs.

Michael Cain poses with medical students in white coats in 2011. Photo: Douglas Levere

Promoting excellence in clinical care in WNY

In recruiting and retaining these world-class faculty, Cain was able to attract many with expertise in medical specialties that the region sorely lacked. These faculty, who provide clinical care through the medical school’s practice plan, UBMD Physicians’ Group, established new clinical services and training programs so that Western New Yorkers no longer have to leave town for specialty care.

Under Cain’s leadership, UBMD ambulatory care sites at Conventus, Orchard Park and Youngs Road have expanded; clinical revenues have nearly doubled from $117 million to more than $310 million; and new levels of collaboration with major teaching hospitals have been achieved.

Cain also envisioned the construction of a multidisciplinary ambulatory care center, where student and resident education could take place. His efforts led to the opening in 2017 of Conventus, a 350,000-square-foot building on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, with two floors devoted to such care.

Michael Cain speaks during an event acknowleging the largest-ever gift to the medical school from an individual donor. Photo: Douglas Levere

Ensuring top-notch medical education

Cain has secured continuing Jacobs School accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education and expanded the number of accredited Graduate Medical Education Programs. In addition, he completed the Jacobs School’s strategic plans for medical curriculum, research, clinical care delivery and inclusion and diversity.

Under his leadership, the school has raised more than $300 million through the Office of Medical Development and Alumni Relations, including a $40 million gift from an anonymous alumnus, the largest ever given to UB.

Michael Cain leads a tour of the newly opened Clinical and Translational Research Center in 2012. Photo: Douglas Levere

Community and professional service

During the pandemic, Cain has worked tirelessly with local and state leaders as a co-leader of the Western New York Vaccination Hub and as a member of the WNY Control Room led by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, responsible for monitoring regional metrics related to COVID-19. His efforts have helped the region confront and fight COVID-19 since the pandemic’s inception by bringing to bear UB’s considerable faculty expertise, research prowess, community service efforts and clinical care talent to battle all aspects of the pandemic.

An internationally recognized cardiovascular physician-scientist, Cain is a specialist in the area of abnormal heart rhythms. He is board-certified in internal medicine, cardiovascular diseases and in clinical cardiac electrophysiology and pacing.

Cain is vice chair and a member of the board of directors of the Associated Medical Schools of New York and a member of the Great Lakes Health board of directors.

He is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association and the Heart Rhythm Society. He is a past president of the Association of Professors of Cardiology and of the Heart Rhythm Society. He previously served as chairman of the board of directors of The Sarnoff Endowment for Cardiovascular Science.

A former associate editor of Circulation, Cain has served on the editorial boards of the American Journal of Cardiology, the Journal of Cardiovascular Electrophysiology, Nature Clinical Practice Cardiovascular Medicine and Heart Rhythm.  

Cain is the recipient of numerous awards for professional service including the Hans-Peter Kragenbuehl Memorial Award for Research in Cardiac Function from the International Academy of Cardiology, the American Heart Association’s Arthur E. Strauss Award and Outstanding Researcher of the Year, presented by the American Heart Association’s Missourian Award Executive Committee. He was also elected to membership in the Association of University Cardiologists.

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Award of the Heart Rhythm Society, the Washington University Resident/Fellow Alumni Achievement Award, the Stanley J. Sarnoff Spirit Award, the Leadership Buffalo Value Award for Inclusion, and the Distinguished Fellow Award from the International Academy of Cardiology. He received the UB President’s Medal in 2018.

Cain also is secretary and a member of the HEALTHeLINK board of directors, a past chair of the Sarnoff Endowment for Cardiovascular Science and past president and member of the board of directors of the Heart Rhythm Society.

Before coming to UB, Cain was director of the Cardiovascular Division and Tobias and Hortense Lewin Professor of Medicine and professor of biomedical engineering at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.


Dean Cain will be missed.

Margaret R Brooks

I first met Michael Cain as a member of the search committee for a new dean in 2006, and was impressed by his vision for the future of the school. Subsequently, I was privileged to work with him as a department chair and, later, as a senior associate dean until my retirement in 2013. He was far and away the best dean I’d seen in 40 years in academic science, having clear and achievable goals, a workable strategy for achieving them, and a personality that encouraged enthusiastic participation.

UB was fortunate to recruit him, and will miss his leadership and vision.

Ken Blumenthal