A crowd of 70 guests gathered Sept. 25 at the intersection of Tiverton and Le Conte avenues for a festive groundbreaking ceremony for UCLA's new Teaching and Learning Center for Health Sciences, or TLC.
Expected to be completed in 2016, the six-level, 110,000 square-foot building will enable the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA to update its educational programs and improve teaching and learning. Campus leaders say the facility will serve as a magnet for recruiting medical students, staff and faculty.
Funding for the $120 million project will come from UCLA Health System reserves and philanthropic gifts. Plans call for environmentally friendly construction, and UCLA will apply for certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) national rating system.
"Today really marks a milestone for medical education," said Chancellor Gene Block. "This dazzling facility will transform the learning experience for our students and help shape future leaders in medicine, medical research and medical education."
Describing the building's environment as a welcoming hub for students to gather, as well as a place to think, Dr. Eugene Washington, vice chancellor for health sciences and dean of the Geffen School of Medicine, said, "This supportive setting will nurture big ideas that can change the way we teach and practice medicine.
"Our students are highly gifted and talented individuals who are deeply committed to medicine," he said. "You are our inspiration and give us our energy and sense of urgency to complete this project."
A desire to consolidate some of the medical school's teaching facilities — they currently span 11 buildings throughout UCLA's south campus — as well as emerging trends in medicine and medical education inspired the new building. In particular, the Teaching and Learning Center will be more conducive to instruction in team-based approaches to medical care and the increasing presence of mobile technologies for diagnosing, tracking and monitoring disease.
The medical school's current classrooms were built more than 60 years ago, when lectures were the primary teaching method. Since then, teaching has evolved new methods that promote problem-solving, teamwork, interpersonal communication and computer simulations. The building is designed to naturally enhance these activities and enable students to practice new skills.
"We will have new classrooms with no podium in front," said Dr. Margaret Stuber, assistant dean of student affairs for well-being and career advising. "Instead, there will be small groups of students at tables surrounded by whiteboards and flat-screen monitors around the room to enhance active learning, which is our curriculum's focus."
In addition to eventually improving public health, the new center will also promote the health of those who work and study there.
"The architects have positioned the new building's stairways so that they are inviting and obvious," Stuber said. "Our current stairwells are neither."
Stuber is meeting with students to discuss placing artwork in stairwells and other ways to encourage exercise by taking the stairs instead of elevators.
In addition to technology-enabled classrooms that facilitate active learning, the Teaching and Learning Center will feature a clinical-skills training center and innovative, flexible teaching labs that promote collaboration and interaction, as well as spaces for students to relax, room for student organizations to meet and offices for admissions, financial aid, student affairs and other student services.
The Sept. 25 ceremony concluded with remarks by first-year medical student Caroline Gross, 23, a Geffen Scholar and member of the Class of 2017 — the first that will enjoy the Teaching and Learning Center.
"The Teaching and Learning Center will help maximize my class' contributions to the fields of medicine and science," Gross said. "This new building will further foster community growth as it builds upon the incredible foundation already established at UCLA."