Med School awaits move in 2011

By
Staff Writer
Monday, September 21, 2009

The Alpert Medical School is set to move into a new home and implement a novel “academy” system for first- and second-year students in August 2011, administrators said last week.

This coming March, the University will begin renovating a former factory at 222 Richmond Street in Providence’s Jewelry District into a brand-new medical education building. “This will, for the first time, give the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University a defined space,” said Edward Wing, dean of medicine and biological sciences. “We are going to create the new strength of Providence in education, health care and research.”

In concert with the physical move, the Med School will divide students in the first two years into three academies or groups, each with a specific study space and senior doctors as advisors. 

Those divisions “will be their social groups for the first and second year,” Wing said.

Acquired by Brown a few years ago, the building near Rhode Island Hospital and other University-owned research buildings will provide parking and adequate space for students and faculty, Wing said. The building will also have a cafe open to the public, a new first-floor entryway, auditoriums and seminar and case-study rooms. It will also house an anatomy suite with natural lighting, showers and areas for clinical diagnosis.

The building will additionally house a new fitness center and Med School administrative offices, currently located in Arnold Laboratory.

The complete renovation, including a small addition to the building’s front, will cost about $45 million, said Vice President for Facilities Management Stephen Maiorisi. A portion of the funding will come from the $100 million gift of the Alpert Foundation in 2007, said Dick Spies, executive vice president for planning and senior adviser to President Ruth Simmons.  The Plan for Academic Enrichment calls for an additional fundraising goal of $20 million.

After two years of evaluating several solutions to the lack of a distinct medical school building, and considering the economic climate, the University decided to renovate the Richmond Street building instead of constructing a new facility, Spies said.   The renovated building’s design will be energy-efficient, Maiorisi said.

“The most green thing is the re-use of an old building,” he said. Energy will be harnessed from the friction generated by the elevators, and 70 percent of the building’s surface will have new windows, he added.

At night, “it will be a beacon that is seen all over the city … a marker, a keystone in the area of medical education,” Wing said, noting that the relocated building will provide more jobs to the city. A few years ago, the Medical School and its affiliated teaching hospitals employed 15,000 people, Vice President for Public Affairs and University Relations Marisa Quinn wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

Students said they were excited for the building’s completion.  

“The new building is really close to the hospital, so the hospital will be more accessible to medical students,” April Wilhelm MD’12 said.