University News

Med School sets up shop in Jewelry District

Staff Writer
Thursday, August 18, 2011

Deep in the heart of the former Jewelry District and burgeoning knowledge district, the new home of Warren Alpert Medical School is making Providence stronger, said Ed Wing, professor of medicine and dean of medicine and biological sciences, at the building’s opening ceremony last month.

Though the building, located at 222 Richmond St., housed an office complex only sixteen months ago, the renovated space now features anatomy labs, classrooms with advanced technology and a sun-lit atrium dominating the center of each floor.

“Believe it or not, 222 Richmond St. gives us medical students a reason to be excited about studying,” said Jenna Lester MD’14, who spoke at the Aug. 15 ceremony.

At the event, Wing said students played a significant role in designing the building.  

The classrooms are specifically designed for current and incoming students, with lecture halls compatible with the newest technology and anatomy labs customized with natural lighting and ventilation to simulate doctors’ offices.

The three academies — lounge, study, food and storage areas for smaller groups of 40 to 45 students — create the most student-friendly aspect of the building. The groups will serve as the social and academic centers for students, Wing said. The model was first introduced at Harvard.

Doors connect the academies to one another to encourage collaboration across the school. The building also features “physical space where students can talk to advisers,” Wing said.

Ted Apstein MD’15 is most excited about the “identity factor” of the academies. It is “our space where we become doctors,” he said.

Apstein also said he is looking forward to the new technology that will accompany the design and construction of the building. Textbooks, lectures, study tools and classroom aids will all be on iPads. “There are no books in the libraries,” Wing said. “It’s all computers.”

The newly renovated building held up well in its first test — accommodating an overflowing crowd and withstanding a downpour. Wing and President Ruth Simmons cut the ceremonial ribbon, after speeches by Wing, Simmons, Gov. Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, Sen. Jack Reed, D-RI, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and a medical student.

The new home of the Med School, built as a jewelry factory in 1928, is “restoring an old strength of Providence,” Wing said at the ceremony.

The 134,000-square-foot building was purchased by the University in 2004 and used for office space until 2009, when the University decided to renovate an existing building for the new Med School home rather than construct a new building because of financial constraints.

Simmons has wanted to improve the Med School since she first took the reins as president of the University, Reed said at the ceremony. The transformation of 222 Richmond St. “affirms the success of the Medical School,” Simmons said.

Simmons blew an affectionate kiss during the ceremony to Herb Kaplan, CEO of Warren Equities, who helped provide funds for the building.

But it was to the medical students that Simmons dedicated the building. “This structure is for you,” she said. “It is about you. It is about preparing you to serve in an area vital to the public good.”