Set to open later this year, the Health Professions Hub will confront two critical challenges in the Buffalo region when it opens in 2021. First, the city’s West Side community, rich with immigrants and refugees, is woefully underserved and faces complex challenges around limited access to care and prevalent poverty and food insecurity. Concurrently, the region anticipates a critical shortage of healthcare professionals in excess of 10,000 by 2024.
The Health Professions Hub will convert both of these challenges into opportunity as a “first-of-its-kind” health center featuring innovative learning spaces, a workforce center, extensive virtual training resources, and a clinic offering primary care, rehabilitation medicine, nutrition, nursing, pharmacy and more. All at once, the building will improve community access to healthcare services, introduce educational opportunities focused on breaking the cycle of chronic illness, prepare a new workforce to seize in-demand healthcare jobs, and support a living-wage ecosystem for Buffalo’s West Side residents.
The full Next City article is available online. Here are key excerpts:
On the vision for the project
Looking at the needs of the West Side and overall region, D’Youville President Lorrie Clemo believed the private college could get creative to address both. The result is the Health Professions Hub, what the college calls a “first-of-its-kind center” that will train a new workforce for healthcare jobs. There’s also an on-site clinic, pharmacy, and cafe, all open to the public. The goal isn’t just to train new healthcare professionals but to improve community access to care and address the cycle of chronic illness on the West Side.
“The question was how could we use the strength of our college, and our strong desire to see our students succeed, and help meet the needs of the surrounding community?” Clemo asks.
As part of larger strategic planning for the college that started in 2017, D’Youville identified three goals when it came to investing in healthcare: reduce the area’s worker shortage by graduating 1,500 students trained in healthcare jobs each year — with a focus on nursing — while addressing the neighborhood’s health inequities and creating new jobs for residents of the West Side.
On the design strategy
“It was a very interesting program, but it didn’t fit neatly into any silo of a type of building,” explains Michael Tunkey, a Principal with CannonDeisgn and their lead on the project.
Though D’Youville has an inward-facing campus, the team decided to “turn the building around and put it right on the corner,” Tunkey says. “It’s a huge change as to how D’Youville has been in the community before, and signals that welcoming aspect.” Glass elements, public artwork and a street-facing pharmacy will make up the exterior.
CannonDesign worked with the Albright-Knox Art Gallery to develop a site-specific art concept with a community participation and education component. The team is now in talks with local designers Julia Jamrozik and Coryn Kempster about adding steel steppers in bright colors along the building exterior and collaborating with Stitch Buffalo, an economic nonprofit for refugee women, to design patterned pillows that will decorate stadium seating within the building’s three-story atrium.
Visible from the street will be an area known as “the hive” — designed with a honeycomb-like facade — with a cafe and educational kitchen. “Everything that’s highly activated and involved people mixing from different disciplines, we pushed those off into this hive,” Tunkey explains.
On meeting Buffalo’s needs in the moment
As demands for healthcare services have increased due to COVID-19, the college faced pressure to accelerate its opening date and pushed it up to this November. “It would have been great if we opened six months earlier,” Clemo says. “The foreshadowing of what our urban areas need for healthcare, we were spot on. Right now we’re prepared for what this community is in need of, especially in this pandemic.”