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A look at Brown’s new medical school

August 11, 2011

LED signs on the Dorrance st side

The ribbon cutting ceremony for the Brown University Alpert Medical School‘s building in Providence’s Jewelry District is on Monday, August 15th.  That’s my wedding anniversary, so I’ll be sipping wine in the sun somewhere as  dignitaries line up to officially open the space.

Ed Wing, the dean of the medical school, was nice enough to give me an early tour. You’ll hear that interview on the air on Monday, but here’s a preview of the space with some snapshots from my smart phone.

The Richmond st entrance

Dean Ed Wing met me in the lobby of the building, which is a large uninterrupted space spanning from Richmond st to Dorrance st.

Stairs leading up to the 2nd and 3rd floors

The new building has two 150 seat auditoriums- one for the first year class, and one for the second year class. Wing says the old medical school had only one auditorium which was smaller and pretty outdated. Now, each seat has a place for the doctors in training to plug in their laptops. Wing says all students received  bought an i-pad when they entered school this year complete with digital versions of their textbooks.

One of the two student auditoriums

Ed Wing then led me to the medical school’s library, which has absolutely no books or paper journals. He says this is how students learn these days. Everything is digital.

A library with no books

The 2nd floor features lounge areas for the medical school’s “academies.” First year students are randomly broken up into groups of 40 people. They then take all of their courses together and share the same faculty advisers.  The idea is to build a sense of community as students progress through their studies.

Coffee bar type kitchen space in the “blue academy”

These “academy” spaces include a locker room, a space for eating, and a lot of study space. On the third floor are seminar rooms for smaller classes. This one has the best view of the city.

Seminar room overlooking the river

Across the hall are the anatomy labs. Wing says they’re two to three times the size of  the old labs that were housed in the basement.

Nothing says medical school like a photo of skeletons

The third floor also features exam rooms where students work with actors pretending to be patients.  The rooms are equipped with video cameras so professors can review their work.

Exam rooms for practice

Ed Wing tried to get me up on the fourth floor terrace, but he didn’t have the right key. That space is still unfinished, but will eventually be a spot for functions and relaxation. Construction work is still ongoing on a future fitness center where students can workout while they study.

First year students meet and greet

 The official opening of the Warren Alpert Medical School building may be Monday the 15th, but the space is already in use. First year students were chatting and nibbling on bagels and fruit for their second day of orientation as I walked out of the building.

The renovated building (it used to be a jewelry factory) is bright and clean and full of the latest technology. But it seems that the most important thing about the space is it’s one unified location. Before, Brown’s medical school was sprinkled around the campus. Dean Ed Wing wasn’t even in the same building as the students. Everyone I talked to seemed relieved to finally be in one place.

Wing says this building will further the goals of city leaders to turn the Jewelry District into the “Knowledge District.”  It will be interesting to see what the new presence of medical students does for downtown Providence.

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