New Jersey’s first new private medical school in 50 years occupies a cutting-edge facility, according to officials. There are no huge lecture halls, but rather numerous “learning studios” where students will cluster in small groups, each with their own video screen. Medical students will train side-by-side with prospective nurses. The anatomy lab, where dissections will be done, is light, airy and well-ventilated, not hidden away in a dark basement.
And perhaps most importantly, the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University has something that older medical schools lack – lots of electrical sockets for students to plug in their laptops, said Dr. Jeffrey Boscamp associate dean of medical education continuum for the new facility.
“One of the biggest things in designing schools now, you would never believe,” he said. ‘There’s one factor that’s most important to students right now: Plugs. We went to visit a new medical school – a famous architect, spectacular – students were incredibly unhappy because there weren’t enough plugs. So they’re sitting in the hall. It was like an airport with no plugs. So we have plugs everywhere.”
Boscamp on Wednesday conducted a press tour of the new facility following a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its site – the former corporate campus of global drug manufacturer Hoffmann-La Roche. Roughly 200 people attended the event, including New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, a large cadre of state lawmakers, as well as officials from Hackensack Meridian with a network of 16 hospitals and Seton Hall, which has its main campus in South Orange, NJ.
Along with the medical school, Seton Hall has relocated its College of Nursing and School of Health and Medical Sciences to the former Roche site, which straddles Nutley and Clifton, NJ, to create an Interprofessional Health Sciences campus.
The medical school is the anchor tenant for the mixed-use redevelopment of the 116-acre Roche tract, which has been renamed ON3 by developer Prism Capital Partners LLC of Bloomfield, NJ.
The Hackensack Meridian and Seton Hall facilities are leasing roughly 500,000 square feet, including research space, in two former Roche buildings, said Gene Diaz, a Prism founder and principal partner who was at the ribbon-cutting.
It cost roughly $75 million, largely born by the developer and the medical school, to renovate and retrofit the former lab buildings and prepare them for new tenants, according to Diaz. The medical school will be receiving $16.9 million in state tax incentives over a 10-year period.
Murphy was among the speakers who predicted that the new medical school and research facility will serve as an economic engine for not only Nutley and Clifton, but North Jersey and the entire state, going beyond filling the void left when the pharmaceutical giant vacated the campus. One of the governor’s priorities is to reclaim its former innovation economy, one that is driven by technology, life-science and health care.
“This is a big deal. This school revitalizes a major economic hub in New Jersey,” Murphy said. “If you need an example of the stronger New Jersey that I talk about so often, look no further than right here […] The school of medicine will be the heartbeat that pumps new life throughout this center and throughout New Jersey’s economy.”
Prism has retained a consulting firm, Benecke Economics, to do studies on the economic impact of the ON3 redevelopment on both Nutley and Clifton, according to Diaz.
One of the goals of the new medical school is to address the looming shortage of physicians, an estimated 3,000, that the state faces by 2020, Hackensack Meridian co-chief executive Robert Garrett said at the ribbon cutting. Research has found that physicians often practice where they train, so Hackensack Meridian medical school alums are more likely to stay in the Garden State, he said.
The new medical school, which starts classes in July, offers a three-year program, one of only about a dozen nationally to do so, according to Hackensack Meridian officials. The school received more than 2,000 applications for the 60 slots in its inaugural class.
During the press tour, Boscamp said that the school was designed around its innovative curriculum, including the classrooms where students will gather in groups of eight to study particular cases, rather than taking notes in on lecture halls. The teaching model is “not the sage on the stage, but the guide on the side,” he said.
The new school’s anatomy lab is not like “a morgue setting,” according Boscamp. He recalled that when he was in med school, fellow students would move away from him when he came to the cafeteria after being in the anatomy lab, because he would smell of formaldehyde. But the new school’s lab is well-ventilated to avoid that kind of situation, he explained.
Prism plans to add retail and residential components, as well as a hotel, to ON3. In addition to the medical school, its tenant roster includes Ralph Lauren, bio-fabrication company Modern Meadow Inc. and Quest Diagnostics Inc. That firm will be constructing a 225,000-square-foot regional lab, office facility and a parking garage on the Clifton portion of the Roche property.
Prism has started the $10 million first phase of its infrastructure improvements at ON3, which includes the addition and rebranding of streets on the east portion of the campus. Its main thoroughfare has been renamed Metro Boulevard from Main Street, while the former Fifth Avenue is now titled Ideation Way. In addition, Ideation Way is being rerouted with a new connection to Kingsland Street in Nutley to provide additional access to the campus.
During Wednesday morning’s ceremony, State Senator Paul Sarlo lauded the redevelopment, which is located within both Passaic and Essex counties.
“We turned this place not from a future strip mall but into something really, really special,” he said.