Two local foundations commit $20 million total to launch campaign for new medical education building

Leaders of the Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation and Cleveland Foundation today announced that each organization has committed $10 million to launch Case Western Reserve University’s campaign for a new medical education and research building. The grants represent the largest one-time awards that either has given in its history.

“For nearly a century, the Mt. Sinai Medical Center transformed the health of our community,” said Marc C. Krantz, chair of the Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation’s board of directors. “Much of that lifesaving, groundbreaking work took place in partnership with the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine. We see this commitment as a continuation of that legacy.”

Ronn Richard, president and chief executive officer of the Cleveland Foundation, expressed great pleasure at the opportunity “to stand shoulder-to-shoulder” with the Mt. Sinai foundation on this transformational commitment to the university and, to his mind, the community as well.

“We feel that the future of Case Western Reserve and the future of Cleveland are inextricably linked,” Richard said. “I don’t think Cleveland can thrive in the future without a first-class national research university.”

Leaders of both foundations said they were moved to make the unprecedented awards because of the compelling case that university leaders had made regarding the need for a modern medical school facility. They added that the awards represented a “vote of confidence” in President Barbara R. Snyder, School of Medicine Dean Pamela B. Davis, the university Board of Trustees and its faculty, students and staff.

“We are honored and humbled by the faith these two foundations have shown in Case Western Reserve,” Snyder said, “and committed to showing that confidence is well placed.”

While the building plans are in their earliest stages, Snyder estimated its total cost would be about $50 million. Its total space will be about 160,000 square feet, spread over a five-story structure that encourages collaboration among disciplines, faculty and students. The university expects to locate the new building on the West Campus, a 14-acre parcel that once stood as the home of the Mt. Sinai Medical Center.

The Case Western Reserve School of Medicine ranked 24th in the nation in this year’s rankings in U.S. News & World Report. Its students average entrance examination scores stand three-tenths of a point behind those of #1-ranked Harvard Medical School. The medical school also draws more than $300 million per year in federal research funding, money that benefits discovery, patients and the city’s economic fortunes.

While renovations have taken place over the years, Case Western Reserve’s existing space for medical students dates back to the 1950s. The new building would include technologically advanced anatomy labs, seminar rooms designed for the school’s acclaimed Western Reserve 2 educational model, and the school’s community health research and outreach programs.

“Both of our foundations are hoping that by our actions we make this project more real to people,” said Bob Eckardt, executive vice president of the Cleveland Foundation. “[We are] making a statement that encourages them to join with us.”

The Cleveland Foundation’s grant represents the first in a series of commitments the organization will make to mark its centennial, which takes place in 2014. The majority of the funds for the award came from gifts made decades ago by four individuals who designated their dollars for medical education and research.

Founded in 1996 after the sale of the Mt. Sinai Medical Center, the Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation’s stated priorities include academic medicine and bioscience as well as health policy. Over the years Mt. Sinai has invested generously in the School of Medicine, providing support for such initiatives as the Mt. Sinai Skills and Simulation Center and the Mt. Sinai Scholars program. The former enables students and health care professionals to develop and hone techniques critical for cutting edge care, while the other provides opportunities for rising academic scientists to launch their research efforts.

Yet the partnership between Mt. Sinai and Case Western Reserve dates back well before the creation of the foundation. President Mitch Balk explained that over the years dozens of medical students trained at the medical center, which, for decades, treated the most poor patients of any private institution in the state. Mt. Sinai also had one of the region’s first emergency medicine residency programs, and served as the East Side’s only Level 1 trauma center.

“I can think of no more meaningful grant,” he said.