For Jesse Romo, constructing UC Riverside’s new School of Medicine Education Building II has helped him contribute to improving medical care in the community. It has also held a more personal meaning for the labor foreman: working toward finding a cure for his daughter, who has lupus.
“There's nothing her doctor can do,” Romo said. “I think that eventually there'll be a cure, and hopefully it'll be before my daughter goes, but if not, I know I can help somebody else by building this new medical center.”
Romo’s dream of improving medical care in the local area is shared by the UC Riverside School of Medicine, which was founded with the mission of increasing physician diversity and expanding access to quality medical care in the Inland Empire.
The medical school’s new building, which is slated to open in the fall of 2023 in time for the school's 10th anniversary, will mark a significant step toward achieving these goals. It will allow the school to boost the number of physicians in training to up to 125 students per class, many of whom are expected to remain to serve the local area after graduation. With 57,000 assignable square feet, the building will also provide new instruction areas, study facilities, and academic and administrative offices and support spaces.
First, though, construction must be completed. “There's been so much to do,” said Romo, citing the materials that needed to arrive at the same time all while following a tight schedule. He and Zach Morrison, the operator of the tower crane standing tall over the construction site, also noted the challenge of working in a tight space close to surrounding buildings and the importance of having a skilled crew to bring everything together.
“If you were to see how much rebar went into this building, it was—wow,” recalled Romo with a smile. “That's why I'm excited, because it was a challenge, and it came out beautiful."
In early November, the construction team was able to share their progress with Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences and the Mark and Pam Rubin Dean of the School of Medicine Deborah Deas, MD, MPH and other School of Medicine staff members. Temporary wooden safety railings standing in for walls vibrated as work on the building continued during the site visit.
Sarah Sabera-Turab, a project manager with the Office of Planning, Design and Construction, helped lead the tour. “It’s an honor to work on this project and to see people from the community work on a building whose purpose is for the community,” she said. Sabera-Turab added that it was exciting to show the building to its future occupants. “I think there was a collective surprise on the nature of the views that it offers to the campus.”
The building’s views were on full display as the group toured each floor, with the still open-air frame offering breathtaking sights of the campus and mountains. They didn’t escape the dean’s notice. “That’s beautiful,” she said, stepping up to a railing to see the greenhouses below. “I knew that we would have great views, but I didn’t know how spectacular the views would be on every single floor,” Deas said after the tour.
But as outstanding as the views are, the building serves an even greater purpose. “It was spectacular today to see so many of the things that we envisioned coming into fruition,” Deas said. “This is going to be a great building. It’s going to serve our constituencies, the faculty, staff, our students, and the community.”
With the building well on its way to completion, the construction crew expressed pride in their work.
“The building is very well planned and very well constructed,” said Romo. “I really am proud to be part of the university and to be a part of building a student's mind, to become a doctor, and even to come up with a cure to heal people.” As a 20-year resident of the community, he added, "Now that I have grandchildren, I can bring them over here and show them, this is what grandpa did.”
Romo hopes the building may help lead to a cure for lupus for his daughter, but he said he appreciates the role of the school, and similar projects, in providing medical care to everyone in the community. “I have another sister who has breast cancer, and I think we should be building more of these than other things,” he said, sharing his plans to work on a construction team for a nearby Kaiser Permanente after completing this project at UCR. “It's very important and it's a great investment.”