Trustees vote to fund new research building

The Board of Trustees approved $116.5 million in funding to build the Williamson Translational Research Building on Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center's Lebanon campus at their termly meeting this past weekend.

The building, which will house academic and research facilities, will foster collaboration between the Geisel School of Medicine and DHMC. Translational research aims to convert lab discoveries into practices that can be used directly in patient care. It is a critical part of Geisel's 20x20 plan to place Geisel in the top 20 medical schools by 2020, media relations director Justin Anderson said.

"This is a milestone that they are trying to hit within the decade," Anderson said. "This building, which is a very important part of that, we hope, is going to help them realize that."

The research building will increase research opportunities for undergraduate students. Through the new research center, study results will have an immediate impact on patient care, Anderson said.

"That's a great way for a medical school and hospital to collaborate," he said. "And because it's going to increase, we think, the amount of research that's happening on campus, we are really hopeful it will benefit undergraduates who are interested in getting involved in research while they are at Dartmouth."

The new facility will assist DHMC and the College in their joint goal of providing low-cost, high-quality care, which former College President Jim Yong Kim supported during his time at Dartmouth.

"We certainly hope that it will increase care because it's going to lead to knowledge creation and a better understanding of any number of challenges that are facing medicine right now," Anderson said. "And so we hope through better understanding, we'll be able to increase quality and reduce cost."

The faculty will benefit DHMC and Geisel as well as improve patient outcomes, DHMC spokesperson Rick Adams said.

"For Dartmouth-Hitchcock, the most exciting aspect of the Williamson project is the even-closer collaboration with our colleagues at the Geisel School of Medicine, literally shortening the distance between medical research and our clinical practices," Adams said. "This bench-to-bedside translational science is key to our efforts to provide high-quality care at lower cost, and with even better outcomes for our patients at Dartmouth-Hitchcock."

Geisel student body president Rebecca Scully '05 Med'13 said she appreciates that the College is investing heavily in research infrastructure, which will increase opportunities for students to conduct research during their medical training. She hopes the facility will attract and retain faculty at Geisel.

Medical students are increasingly pursuing research projects to enhance their studies. Many Geisel students choose to take one year off while enrolled to conduct research in another part of the country. With the new building, Scully said she hopes even more students will be involved in research projects.

"Having more available here will let them stay here to do research or do it without taking a year off," Scully said.

Chelsea Mehr '08 Med'13 said the Williamson Translational Research Building will improve collaboration between DHMC doctors, Geisel professors and students.

"It's very exciting to have a new research space for both the medical school, the College and the hospital," she said.

The facility will introduce medical students to more basic scientific research and allow them to apply the scientific method at various levels of medicine, Mehr said.

The Board of Trustees finalized the construction plan for the building along with the new North Campus Academic Center at their meeting last June. The construction plan, which was in its early stages at the time, was estimated to cost $150 million.

Funds for the building will come partly from a $20 million gift from the late Peter Williamson '58 and his wife Susan, pledged to Geisel and DHMC in 2007. The gift was the largest given to DHMC and Geisel when it was donated. Williamson, a former Geisel professor and director of the DHMC Epilepsy program, donated the funds for translational research as part of Geisel's and DHMC's Transforming Medicine Campaign, which he chaired at the time.

At this month's meeting, the Board of Trustees also voted to allocate $38 million to ongoing projects to improve existing facilities, including the Collis Center and Baker-Berry Library.

Staff writer Ester Cross contributed reporting to this article.

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