School of Medicine gets new home

Provincial, federal governments fund three quarters of building project

David Walker, dean of the School of Medicine, says the medical school has raised more than $11.5 million in donations over the last decade.
David Walker, dean of the School of Medicine, says the medical school has raised more than $11.5 million in donations over the last decade.

The Queen’s School of Medicine will start construction on a new $76 million building this year to avoid losing its accreditation as a teaching facility.

On May 25, the federal and provincial governments announced they will contribute $56.7 million to the University for the new building. Queen’s will raise the remaining $19.3 million.

David Walker, dean of the School of Medicine, said the money comes at an opportune time.

“We’re under intense pressure from the accreditation process who told us that our teaching facilities are inadequate,” he said. “Our accreditors have put us on watch that if we don’t have better teaching facilities, they’re going to retract our accreditation.”

Medical schools across North America are audited every seven years for more than 130 standards, one of which is adequate facilities.

If a school fails to meet some of the standards, it could lose accreditation.

“Medical schools have to be accredited; otherwise, medical doctors would determine it unuseful for graduates,” Walker said.

Schools are accredited by the Ottawa-based Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools and the Washington-based Liaison Committee on Medical Accreditation.

As a result of the government funding, the University will be able to begin construction shortly, Walker said, adding that he expects the building to be completed by March 2011.

The School of Medicine is currently housed in several buildings, including Botterell Hall and Abramsky Hall.

Walker said the School of Medicine has already raised more than $11.5 million in donations and pledges through a low-key fundraising drive over the last decade.

“The process of identifying the need for a new structure started about 10 years ago when it became quite apparent that we were going to be undergoing significant growth,” he said. “During this time, we were considering ways of raising money.”

Walker said one donor left the School of Medicine $7 million in his will.

Principal Tom Williams said Queen’s received money from both levels of governments’ infrastructure budgets—totaling almost $1.5 billion for capital spending over the next two years—after submitting applications with building plans.

In March, the University hired Zaback Architects and Diamond and Schmitt/Shoalts to design the facility.

“We were able to get a pretty good estimate of what would be the cost of building the space ... the governments want that kind of justification,” he said.

Williams said both levels of government ranked the medical building first on their priority lists for infrastructure funding for educational institutions.

Last year, the University had to turn down the provincial government’s request that it take in more medical students, he said.

“Basically we had to tell them that, because of our facility, we couldn’t do it,” he said. “I guess I would have to say that probably kick-started the process [of receiving funding].”

The School of Medicine currently has more than 900 students.

Christina Nowik, Queen’s Aesculapian Society vice-president (external affairs), said the facility will allow the University to accept more medical students.

“Medical schools all across the province and country are expanding their class sizes in response to a shortage of doctors,” she said.

She said she thinks the new building could be a draw for potential students.

“I think it would make a big difference … just in your overall impression when you come to Queen’s medicine for your interview,” she said, adding that right now there isn’t one building they can take interviewees to that represents the school. “[The new building] would make Queen’s feel a lot more polished.”

—With files from Gloria Er-Chua

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