Space: The Final Frontier

Build It and They Will Come

Remember the popular movie Field of Dreams? A struggling farmer, taking a cue from an "inner" voice, builds a baseball diamond in his corn patch, out in the middle of nowhere. Baseball greats materialize, and the fans flock there from miles around.

Fantasy? Take a look at Turner Field. Or Atlanta for that matter. Whether it's life, art, or baseball, visionaries throughout history have realized their dreams by preparing the ground properly. And today, after months of strategic planning (no, not ethereal voices), the Woodruff Health Sciences Center too has carefully laid the groundwork that will define its future. The plan is to construct more than $200 million in research, teaching, and clinical facilities over the next five years.

It's the largest, most costly building campaign in Emory's history, and it's designed to do much more than provide additional room. New, state-of-the-art space will help Emory continue to attract the best and the brightest biomedical scientists to our research missions. It will fix our trajectory into the top tier of research universities in the 21st century.

Sounds like a tall order for bricks and steel. But more space - in some ways, the final frontier at Emory - is critical for the health sciences center to retain and attract the most highly qualified faculty and students. And space designed for 21st century research is key for top scientists to secure the funding they need in an increasingly competitive funding environment.

The buildings also signal new thinking at Emory about the future of research and how scientists and scientific inquiry are crossing department and school boundaries. The structures will be accompanied by a new mindset about who gets what space and how it will be used.

In addition, the new facilities and consequent remodels are not happening in a vaccuum, but are an important part of the university's vision, says Charlie Andrews, health sciences center assistant vice president for space planning and construction. "We've worked closely with the university's facilities management division and will follow the design guidelines established by the campus master plan."

For some of our research faculty, getting more or better space - space that can accommodate their pioneering visions and inspirations - can't come soon enough. Strategic planners found that the School of Medicine alone is 550,000 square feet shy of space, compared with other outstanding medical schools across the country. The Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing needs an additional 25,000 square feet.

What does that mean? Ask Devn Cornish. Even though he heads one of the top medical school pediatric programs in the country, recruitment interviews are often quite short. "Candidates take one look at our space - four trailers; a temporary building erected in 1953 that's jammed with people, equipment, and crowded labs; and a clinic that's constantly being renovated to squeeze out every inch of space. Many faculty candidates say, 'no thanks' and go elsewhere."

Or look at Emory's growing genetics labs, which handle 25,000 tests a year for The Emory Clinic and Emory Children's Center. More than 70 faculty and staff work elbow to elbow in overlapping shifts in just 5,000 square feet of research, service, education, and administrative space.

Lynn Lotas, director of research for the School of Nursing, sees every new grant as good news and bad news: she worries where she'll put the people to carry out the research. The school has carved research space out of closets and even the entryway into a men's restroom. "There are only so many closets in this building," she says of the 1960s structure, erected when the nursing school was focusing solely on preparing nurses to work in clinical settings. "People hate to see me coming because I walk the halls looking for little corners to wall off and make into research space."

Help is on the way. Plans call for erecting six new structures between now and 2003, and in their wake, renovating several others (see map). So much new brick and mortar on campus will create a domino effect that will impact almost every aspect of the health sciences center.

The first wave will hit when nursing moves in December 2000 to its new quarters next to the Grace Crum Rollins School of Public Health Building. Emory University Hospital may use the existing nursing school structure for office space, freeing up more of the hospital for direct patient services, such as some beds now located in the Center for Rehabilitation Medicine (CRM). Psychiatric beds in Uppergate Pavilion may also move to Emory Hospital.

Uppergate may be torn down to make way for a new cancer center. The latter, with a 40/60 research-to-clinical-space ratio, is expected to boost Emory's quest to become Georgia's first National Cancer Institute-designated facilty.

Subject to state approval, 38 rehab beds now at the CRM will become the foundation of a planned Emory Healthcare Rehabilitation Center at Wesley Woods Geriatric Hospital. Allied Health's physical therapy degree program, now at the CRM, will follow those beds to Wesley Woods, giving students additional opportunities to work with more patients.

The freed-up CRM building located next to Egleston Children's Hospital on Clifton Road promises to be the ideal location for pediatrics and its clinical practice, the Emory Children's Center.

Space dominos


THE BIG PICTURE: The health sciences center's building program will have a huge impact on Emory's campus master plan, which charts the course of the university's growth over the next 50 years, says Charlie Andrews, assistant vice president for space planning and construction. That master plan, developed with consensus from university President Bill Chace, faculty, staff, and students, concludes that Emory needs to return to its roots. The plan aims to recreate contemporary versions of the spaces created by architect Henry Hornbostel, who designed the Emory campus. Emory envisions a walking campus through incremental infill of buildings and interconnected open space, paths, and quadrangles.

There's more. The medical school has the largest stake in the planned 25,000-square-foot biomedical research building. When it opens in late 2001, about 50 people from cell biology and physiology will leave the Anatomy and Physiology buildings. Those stately marble Hornbostel buildings will be converted then into a "real" School of Medicine complex.

The $10 million renovation will result in a "much better environment for our students, faculty, and staff," Andrews says. When the renovation is completed in early 2003, Emory will have a state-of-the-art teaching facility, complete with a new entrance and signage and more places for students to gather, study, and stash their belongings. "And when you walk in the front doors you'll be able to turn around, look across the lawn, and know you're at the Emory School of Medicine."

The Woodruff Health Sciences Center Administration Building, which currently houses many medical school classes as well as administrative functions for both the School of Medicine and the health sciences center, is next in line. "We've put thousands of dollars into WHSCAB renovations for students, and it's much better than it used to be but still not what we'd like to provide," says School of Medicine Dean Tom Lawley. When the medical school moves, WHSCAB will be renovated to accommodate core administrative functions now off campus, many in Decatur.

Off campus, Emory has negotiated to acquire the Georgia Mental Health Institute property on Briarcliff Road. With over a half million square feet of existing space, this new site will be converted to multiple uses by the university, including a biotechnology development center in partnership with Georgia Tech. This new center will nurture biotech spin-offs from both universities and other Georgia institutions by providing comprehensive business expertise and scientific core services.

Med school with home

It's hard to talk about space at Emory without mentioning research in the same breath. In fact, the building program evolved as a result of an intense research strategic planning process, spearheaded by Michael Johns, director of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center. Faculty and staff from all sectors evaluated each academic unit's mission. They looked at what we have, what other pre-eminent institutions have, and what we need to do to capture and retain more of the world's top scientists.

They found that the health sciences center has a core of faculty scientists on par with top scientists at any other university. The medical school, for example, boasts of a ten-year record of research funding growth, the eighth fastest in the nation as measured by NIH dollars. But the health sciences center has significantly fewer top scientists than comparable institutions. As a result, the center is not competitive for multi-investigator training grants, program project grants, and center grants that require a critical mass of investigators in a given area. Emory also suffers from insufficient institutional infrastructure - administrative support, animal facilities, information technology, and shared-use core facilities. This means we can't compete well for support of the kinds of interdisciplinary programs becoming increasingly important to biomedical research and development.

During the strategic planning process, the three schools examined various markers of quality. The School of Medicine discovered that building a critical mass of successful investigators not only increases the number of individual awards, but has a multiplier effect - the more top-tier faculty with diverse skills, the more new opportunities for creative synergy. Evidence of this multiplier effect is found by comparing total NIH funding and number of investigators. The medical school in 1996 was ranked 31st in NIH funding with $55.1 million, compared with the tenth-ranked institution, which had $113.6 million. For the same year, Emory's medical school had 143 NIH-funded investigators compared with the benchmark average of 232. Using that formula, the planned 62% percent increase in investigators (70-90) would result in a 100% increase in NIH funding.

The School of Nursing also compared faculty composition and funding with other nursing schools. Nursing research is still in its infancy, and the school has only 23 senior faculty, compared with the benchmark average of 34. The NHWSN currently holds $250,000 in NIH funding compared with the top ten average of $3.3 million per year. To reach top-tier status, the nursing school needs to increase funding by $1.5 million over the next five years.

Only eight years old, the School of Public Health ranks 12th nationally in terms of government-funded research. But that was $3.7 million in 1996 compared with the $26 million benchmark average.

This sort of benchmarking isn't just an exercise in one-upmanship. "Research space is critical to Emory's ability to recruit new scientists, which in turn relates to how many NIH research dollars Emory can attract," says Dennis Liotta, Emory's vice president for research. "If your faculty is too small, you can't compete with other top centers when it comes to getting research dollars. Having more space will allow us to get the researchers we need to apply for those grants. And we're not going to be able to attract the best established people until we give them adequate space. They simply won't come here without it."

Bricks, steel, and research appeal

MORE THAN A HOLE IN THE GROUND: Emory is serious about providing state-of-the-art research space, as evidenced by construction of the new Emory Vaccine Center.

The strategic plan calls for 70 new medical school faculty over the next seven years. There will not be an overall increase in faculty, due to attrition, but the number of peer-review-funded faculty is expected to rise. Public health will add 20 to 25 new faculty over the next five years, nursing six to eight, and Yerkes eight.

The plan calls for enhancing interdisciplinary, interschool, and university-wide initiatives in research in ten key areas: aging, cancer, cardiovascular health, child and adolescent health, infectious diseases, minority health, metabolic and immunologic disorders, neurobehavioral studies, transplantation, and women's health. Informatics and bioengineering will receive new research emphasis. Emory will strengthen clinical and population disciplines such as biostatistics, clinical ethics, epidemiology, health services research, and imaging; and in the basic sciences, cell signaling, developmental biology, genetics, immunobiology, neurobiology, nutrition, and structural and vascular biology.

Nothing in the recruitment plan is set in stone, says David Blake, associate director of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center and vice president for academic health affairs. "If opportunities change and we can recruit people that make sense a year from now that didn't make as much sense when we made this plan, we'll modify our priorities."

Except for cell biology, physiology, and genetics, no decisions have been announced as to how the new space will be allocated. These decisions will be made over time as the research building takes form and priorities are reviewed and updated.

"We want to reinvigorate and expand our genetics department, for example," Lawley says. "We cannot recruit a permanent chair of genetics or a cancer center director and fully staff departments until we have space, so our ability to develop genetics is slowed down. We'll begin to recruit a chair before the new building is complete."

The prospect of a new cancer center will also make recruiting new leadership easier. With the director's position vacant for more than a year, the new facility will "allow us to recruit a truly outstanding leader into that position. We have been able to recruit a series of new chairs over the past year into the School of Medicine in part because of the prospect of this new building and more space for research," Lawley says.

(continued below)

Strategic recruiting

Research space is critical to Emory's ability to recruit new scientists and attract more research dollars.

Luring the Best

ROOM FOR TOO FEW: Cell biology has
half the space it needs and inadequate
utilities to cool new computer-driven
research equipment that generates a
lot of heat, says Chair Barry Shur.

Space is the currency of research success

Barry Shur came to Emory on a promise.

As a leading researcher in cell biology, Shur admits that prospects of new, state-of-the-art laboratories clinched the deal. He agreed to chair the School of Medicine's Department of Cell Biology (formerly anatomy and cell biology).

In fact, Shur's recruitment to Emory was similar to his experience at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, which he joined in 1984 when new lab space there was already under construction. Emory will break ground on its new biomedical research building in January, with completion expected in 2001.

What Shur discovered at Emory are people very serious about building a first-class department in cell biology. Emory also has the resources, the reputation, and the blessings of the Board of Trustees. "It was not just talk," he says. "There is no question that I would not have taken this job without the promise of a new research building. I knew I could not build this department without new financial resources and physical facilities."

No one disagrees. He's currently based in the Anatomy Building, which was last renovated almost 30 years ago. The department faces environmental inadequacies at all levels, including half the space it needs.

How scientists conduct research has changed dramatically as well. "In the old days, science was more individual," Shur says. "Technology was simple, scientists were trained in a particular technique, and you worked by yourself at the bench. Today, science is so technically sophisticated that our scientists need to talk to geneticists, neurobiologists, cell biologists, and electrophysiologists. They can't do good science in a room by themselves. They have to be bumping into other researchers in the hallway and lab all the time in an integrated, interactive space." However, most basic science and preclinical departments at Emory, except for cell biology and physiology, are in the Rollins Research building.

"Some research space is being added to the Anatomy Building, but much isn't because it would cost many millions of dollars and we still wouldn't have what we need unless we take out every wall and redesign it," he says. "We need this building as an educational resource, so why throw money away renovating it into a second-class research facility?"

Cell biology and physiology are among the few School of Medicine departments already singled out for new space in the biomedical research building. Their departure from AP will open up new opportunities for students. Cell biology faculty teach about 50% of the first-year medical school curriculum, and retrofitting the AP building to improve teaching resources is as important as new research space. New dissection labs and locker rooms top Shur's list. "Anatomy is not a clean exercise. Our students need a place to put their clean clothes and books as well as more lecture halls and study areas."

An accomplished recruiter himself, Shur says even the prospect of new space has helped in recent efforts to build the department from 12 to 20 active research tenure track faculty. He recently hired three top candidates for new positions here.

During the interview process, prospective recruits were concerned about the same issues that Shur expressed during his recruitment to Emory. Shur's answer was emphatic. Space is the currency of research success, he stressed. There's no doubt that it will be built at Emory. Very soon.

In Emory's new research model, ownership of space will not reside in departments, but in "programs." Collaborative research will result in teams of scientists forming interdisciplinary research units (IRUs) that will require spaces that enhance interaction, rather than small separate benches.

"The idea is to create a unit and give it the staff, space, and other necessary infrastructure you need to get it off the ground," Liotta says. "If it blossoms, it will probably support itself. But at some point, the initiative will probably wane. At that point, unlike departments, we should phase it out.

"It's just like the life of a cell. It comes to life, it flourishes for a while, and then at some point, it dies. And that's what we will be looking at in these interdisciplinary efforts. The lifetime could be very long in certain cases, but we should have no illusions that these things will last forever."

This philosophy will translate into how the new spaces are planned and built. Liotta recalls visiting some newly constructed buildings at another university. "The tour guide pointed out that the labs in the old chemistry building were custom designed for the people who were going to occupy them. But ten years after the building opened, not one of the persons for whom the labs were designed was still there. That meant everybody who came in afterward had a lab ill suited for their needs.

Most labs in Emory's new research building will have modular furniture. All possible services will be stubbed in. Researchers moving into a lab will be able to rearrange the furniture to meet their needs and to cluster appropriate services. That flexible strategy will allow more clustered groups with complementary interests and expertise to work together.

Case in point: Liotta, whose appointment is in chemistry, is collaborating on translational research (early work to convert a discovery into a clinically useful service or product) involving agents that dramatically suppress the progression of colon cancer by preventing polyps from becoming cancerous. Also on the team are biochemist Al Merrill, oncologist Kapil Bhalla, and surgeon Thomas Keane.

"If you are to be successful in translational research, you have to bring discovery from the benchtop to the bedside. That means you have to interact with a variety of basic and clinical scientists, but there is no inherent infrastructure in place to make those interactions easy," Liotta says. "It's much easier for me to collaborate with someone in my own department than it is to collaborate with people in biochemistry, infectious diseases, and the cancer center. Unlike department-based research, there's no common space, no infrastructure, no support staff.

"If there were a place we could at least cluster together, be near each other, we could run into each other on a daily basis, and I'm sure we could come up with some wonderful new innovations. But right now we're in four different labs. We get together once a week and talk, but it's not the same as being down the hall from each other or sharing the same coffee pot. A lot of the most interesting ideas come from people just getting together and brainstorming. You really can't brainstorm effectively on the telephone. That's where we hope the IRU concept will make an important difference."

Coffee cup brainstorming

SPACE DEPRIVED: Pediatrics faculty and staff are crowded into four trailers, a temporary building, and a clinic near Egleston Hospital.

How are we going to pay for all this? And how can we afford to pour money into buildings when we are cutting costs, especially on the clinical side?

The building program will be financed through two major sources: the university's building endowment and gifts. Sale of the existing nursing building to the hospital will cover almost half of the new nursing building tab.

The answer to the second question is simple. The health sciences center can't afford not to build. The stakes are too high, says Ronnie Jowers, health sciences center associate vice president for finance.

Federal research funding is slated to grow substantially and may even double over the next few years, some say. Tobacco settlements, if they do indeed materialize, are expected to substantially sweeten the research pot. But even if we had enough researchers to capitalize on newly available research dollars, the health sciences center has no place to put them.

Jowers makes one thing clear. The first principle of the strategic planning process is that all three missions - research, teaching, and service - must continue to be strengthened simultaneously. "Some clinicians say they are already pinched for funds and why not put the money into their operations," he says. "But dollars to build new space come from a different pot. NIH research money cannot be channeled to the clinical side, and we're fundraising for gifts that are earmarked for the new buildings.

"That's why Emory Healthcare did its own strategic plan to figure out ways to increase its market share. That's why the new Emory Healthcare Board will help improve governance and how we provide patient care. We are talking about separate streams, and we have to invest in our future in all three areas."

Different pots

We can't afford not to build. The stakes are too high.

While the health sciences landscape will change significantly by 2003, what will we do in the meantime?

"We are absolutely going to continue to recruit. We will focus on recruiting very high-quality individuals who are willing to join us in limited research space in the short run, and we'll promise them substantially more in the long run," Lawley says.

No longer an entitlement

Space will continue to be tight for the next three years. There will be some missed opportunities - like the researcher who recently turned down an offer to come here with his established program and a quarter of a million dollars in grants. We didn't have 5,000 square feet to put him in.

With space no longer an entitlement, allocating it is certain to be politically charged. Under the new paradigm, everyone will have to justify use of space.

"If your lab is dark 80% of the week, chances are we will have other groups who could use that space more effectively," Liotta says. He does not expect our space problems to go away. "We'll build the buildings, have enough space for a while, and then we'll grow and won't have enough any more. If we're to be successful, we have to find ways of partnering across units so that we can advance important initiatives."

Adds Blake, "It becomes essential that we identify underutilized space and make it available, at least temporarily, pending the completion of this new construction. And we'll use the principles of our strategic plan to make sure that we use this space wisely. We've done our homework, the trustees are behind us, and we know exactly what we need to do."

Meanwhile, the health sciences center's field of dreams is still in the making. The cranes and construction workers will be here into the next century. But expect our top recruits to stay much longer as we build for a whole new ballgame - and a growing roster of all-star players.

--Marlene Goldman

In this Issue

From the Director  /  Letters

Yerkes: Link to the Past,
   Hope for the Future

Build It and They Will Come

Putting the PhD in Nursing

Moving Forward  /  Noteworthy

Facing Death and Dying


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Send comments to the Editors.
Web version by Jaime Henriquez.