New VCU School of Medicine Education Building Project Launched

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Gov. Tim Kaine along with VCU officials on Monday unveiled renderings of the new Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine Education Building, signaling the beginning of a project to build a new, state-of-the-art facility that will enable the school to increase class size and transform medical education.

“Capital investments in medical schools will help meet the future needs for health care professionals in the commonwealth, particularly in underserved and rural areas,” said Gov. Kaine. “Construction of these facilities will create jobs immediately and position our colleges and universities to continue our highly regarded work force development efforts.”

The $158.6 million project is a public-private partnership, with $70 million provided by state funds approved by Gov. Kaine and the General Assembly, and VCU and private funds supporting the remaining cost.

VCU President Michael Rao said he applauded the support of Gov. Kaine and the General Assembly to build the new facility, which will help to address a national and statewide physician shortage. When the new building opens, the current 200-student class size could rise to 250 students, increasing the total medical student body to 1,000.

“One of the things I appreciate most is the advancement of VCU’s mission as a research institution and as a premier medical center,” said Rao. “This will have a major impact on the quality of life here in Richmond and across the commonwealth of Virginia.”

VCU’s role as a partner in health care across the state was echoed by Dr. Sheldon Retchin, VCU Health System CEO and vice president for VCU Health Sciences.

“The commonwealth is leveraging its capital expenditure to train highly skilled health care workers in a cost effective way, once again reaffirming that VCU is Virginia’s university,” Retchin said.

The 200,000-square-foot, 12-story building will be located on the site of the A.D. Williams Building, at the corner of 12th and Marshall streets. The building will be taken down over the course of six months, beginning in early spring 2010. Construction is expected to begin in fall 2010 and be completed in spring 2013.

The dean of VCU’s School of Medicine, Dr. Jerome Strauss, said the new building also means a new curriculum, one that will set the standard for American medical education.

“The project, when completed, will influence medicine in the commonwealth and indeed the entire country for the next 100 years,” Strauss said. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity — an incredible time during which health care delivery and biomedical technology will undergo tremendous changes.” 

The new building’s flexible learning environments are a vital element in the medical school’s innovative curriculum redesign, which features integrated learning modules, earlier exposure to clinical experience and multidisciplinary training. Two floors of the building will be home to the Center for Human Simulation and Patient Safety, a state-of-the-art facility serving medical student, resident and continuing medical education. The building will also support the discovery mission of the School with two floors dedicated to cancer research, and additional space for structural biology.

The building is designed by I.M. Pei’s internationally acclaimed architectural firm, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, and Ballinger architects. As a team, the firms bring a blend of medical education, research laboratory and sensitive design expertise to the project. Pei Cobb Freed is known for its design of the East Wing of the National Gallery, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Louvre Pyramid. Ballinger, headquartered in Philadelphia, has designed comparable academic and research facilities for such institutions as Johns Hopkins University and the Weill Medical College of Cornell. 

The facility is being built to meet the United States Green Building Council’s criteria for LEED Silver certification. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the council’s leading rating system for designing and constructing the world’s greenest, most energy efficient and high-performing buildings.