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Life Sciences: Drexel Opens Health Sciences Building, Solidifying Its Place As a Leader in Health Care Education and Scientific Training

SEPTEMBER 13, 2022

View of Health Sciences Building in University City. Credit: Ballinger

PHILADELPHIA — In a historic move, Drexel University will open a new 460,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art academic home that will bring together the University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, College of Medicine, and Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Professional Studies in University City, enhancing collaboration, research and practice opportunities.

The Health Sciences Building, located at uCity Square at 36th and Filbert streets, will centralize many of Drexel’s health-related programs and integrate them into the University’s main campus. The 12-story building features instructional spaces, offices, simulation spaces, anatomy teaching spaces and wet labs. Occupancy will be completed in phases, with students in the College of Nursing and Health Professions beginning classes in the new building on Sept. 19.

“This magnificent building will be a game changer for Drexel and the communities we are privileged to serve,” said Drexel President John Fry. “It will keep the University on the leading edge for preparing exceptional students to excel in the health and life sciences professions and provide the highest quality health care throughout the city, region and nation, particularly to underserved communities. It strengthens our capacity to support our stellar faculty in conducting critical and often life-saving research while maintaining our edge as a Research-1 institution. While further invigorating our uCity Square innovation district, this state-of-the-science building will foster more interdisciplinary and professional collaboration throughout our University community. As important, having the Health Sciences Building next door to the Powel SLAMS School will draw us ever closer to our West Philadelphia neighbors in partnership and fellowship.”

The tower was developed and is owned by Wexford Science & Technology and Ventas. The building was designed by the architectural firm Ballinger. Construction was led by Turner Construction and Perryman Building and Construction. Drexel will lease the building for the next 30 years.

“This is a pivotal moment for Drexel, as these health-related academic and research programs come together in a facility befitting our institutional strengths in the health sciences,” said Paul Jensen, PhD, executive vice president and Nina Henderson Provost. “The Health Sciences Building will be a hub to inspire students through immersive learning experiences, catalyze interdisciplinary collaborations, expand our research impact and promote innovation in areas of pressing societal need. In uniting these health programs with the main campus, the building will serve to benefit and strengthen Drexel’s entire academic enterprise.”

In 2014, Drexel and Wexford partnered to purchase a 14-acre site, that formerly housed the University City High School, from the School District of Philadelphia. The organizations recently completed a facility that houses two Philadelphia public schools on the same site and are partners on the University City Science Center’s uCity Square development to the immediate west.

Moving the College of Nursing and Health Professions, College of Medicine, and Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Professional Studies to University City will allow students, faculty and professional staff to have easier access to the full resources of the University, including the libraries, fitness center, theaters, athletic fields, student organizations and dining facilities. It will further connect students with the neighboring community and usher in transformational opportunities for innovative collaborations, education and community engagement.

“This new state-of-the-science building provides an unparalleled opportunity for the College of Nursing and Health Professions to advance its core mission of preparing future leaders in health care, service, research and clinical practices,” said Laura N. Gitlin, PhD, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Professions. “The Health Sciences Building propels us forward, both as a College and a University, as we work collaboratively to promote health equity for all people. We celebrate this beautiful new space and the meaningful impact we can have now and into the future.”

Many opportunities to enhance education and interprofessional clinical skills for students will be available with hands-on learning experiences in the simulation centers, the anatomy labs and simulated patient rooms. In addition to classroom and learning spaces, the building features seminar rooms, pantry spaces, study spaces, creative arts therapies spaces, physical therapy labs and research spaces, virtual reality rooms and flex space. Wellness, faith and lactation rooms are located on multiple floors.

The College of Medicine’s Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Professional Studies will be moving its pre-medical post-baccalaureate and Master of Science programs as well as many of its career-focused academic programs that prepare graduates for a broad range of jobs — inside and outside academia to the Health Sciences Building in January 2023. Research-intensive doctoral and graduate biomedical research training will continue at both the New College Building in Center City and the Queen Lane Campus, while plans are being made for their eventual move to University City.

“The realities of today’s job market present a tremendous opportunity to modernize and re-conceptualize graduate student education. Drexel University has been at the forefront of this innovation,” said Elisabeth Van Bockstaele, PhD, Chief Strategy Officer, senior vice president for Graduate and Online Education, dean and of the Graduate College and Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in the College of Medicine and professor of Pharmacology and Physiology. “This new building further strengthens our mission to support students and graduates to excel wherever disciplines converge and produce real-world solutions for complex problems. Our diverse matrix of programs, built on a foundation of interdisciplinary, collaborative and experiential learning are integral to a comprehensive 21st-century graduate education.”

Drexel University College of Medicine’s MD Program will move from the Queen Lane Campus in East Falls to the new Health Sciences Building in time to start the academic year in August 2023. College of Medicine researchers will remain at Queen Lane and in the New College Building while plans are being crafted for their eventual move to the University City campus.

“This is a phenomenal opportunity for all of us. Bringing this diverse group of learners and faculty under one roof is a sign of our commitment to teaching interprofessionalism as a central part of our students’ educations,” said Charles B. Cairns, MD, the Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg Dean of the College of Medicine and senior vice president of medical affairs at Drexel. “Collegiality and collaboration are core to who we are as a college, and this is a step toward furthering those qualities in our students, trainees, faculty and professional staff.”

Moving the health sciences to University City comes at a time when Drexel is creating a vibrant presence and ecosystem of innovation in and around its campus that will ultimately benefit students through co-ops and career opportunities, benefit faculty through collaborative research and training, and benefit the surrounding community through the creation of a pipeline to employment. Through a partnership with Brandywine Realty Trust, Schuylkill Yards, a $3.5 billion mixed-use project, is being constructed on University real estate adjacent to Philadelphia’s Amtrak 30th Street Station. In partnerships with Spark Therapeutics and with Gattuso Development Partners, the University is bringing a state-of-the-art gene manufacturing center and what is expected to be the largest life sciences facility in Philadelphia to campus.

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