The Lennar Foundation Medical Center building – a towering glass structure that will house UHealth at Coral Gables, the Student Health Center and the Department of Sports Medicine– opened its doors Friday afternoon after being officially dedicated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Medical leadership, University of Miami administration and Board of Trustee members, alumni and donors filled the sleek marble lobby for champagne and hors d’oeuvres and were invited to wander around the building on self-guided tours. The focus of the evening and the message in the months leading up to it was the same: the transformative power of a space made for personalized healthcare.
UM President, Dr. Julio Frenk, said the center will further his goal of making the university “exemplary.”
“This is a great day for the University of Miami,” Frenk said. “In addition to opening a state-of-the-art facility, this is the launch of a new healthcare model that places patients at the center, a person-centered focus on the patients, doctors, nurses and staff who work here.”
The ceremonial groundbreaking for the center was a little more than a year ago, in September 2015 and since then, construction teams have worked day and night to complete the $145 million project. Just a few months ago, there was no flooring, some major medical equipment had not arrived and the delicate art installation of flying glass ibises was not placed.
On Friday, attendees got to experience firsthand those details Frenk spoke of – different aromatherapy scents for each floor, carefully chosen paint colors, operating rooms with natural light filtering through and a rooftop “reflection garden” for patients.
“If you walk around, everything has been designed with people in mind,” Frenk said. “What makes great health care institutions is not the buildings, it is not the technology, it is the people.”
For Stuart Miller, CEO of the Lennar Corporation and member of the Board of Trustees, Friday’s event was an intersection of the personal and the professional. Miller’s mother, Susan, a key donor and local philanthropist, died on Nov. 10 after a battle with cancer. She was 81. The Miller family is a longtime supporter of university endeavors, and the Lennar building was no exception. They made a $50 million donation that helped kickstart the creation of this new facility.
“I think that there are many around the country that are starting to focus on the fact that it’s not just about fixing a bump or bruise or fixing a medical condition,” Miller said. “It’s the serenity, the decency, the kindness that surrounds the engagement with the human that adds to the healing process and I hope we play our part in a national narrative of trying to make medicine become more human, more engagement oriented, more care centric. I think UHealth will play a vital role in part of what we do right here.”
The medical center is the namesake of the charitable arm of the Lennar Corp., which gave a $50 million lead gift towards the $149 million construction cost. The CEO, Stuart Miller, a former chairman of the university’s board of trustees, helped negotiate the donation, making another mark on the institution’s history after having his family’s name etched on the medical campus.
Miller spoke of the foundation his mother laid out that inspired the philanthropy that went into the creation of the center.
“With great success comes great responsibility. That really was the mantra of my mother,” said Miller.
“The essence is, we do not want anyone who walks into this facility to think they’re in a health care facility, even though they really are to help get treated,” said Benjamin Riestra, Chief Administrative Officer of the Lennar Center. “There’s really three principles of this building: preventative medicine, treatment of disease, and management of disease. We want to make this a community asset this is really a building that the doors are open to everybody. You don’t have to be a patient to come here and enjoy the facility.”
Riestra emphasized the importance of patient input on further improving the facility in the future.
“We’re going to be agile, we’re going to react in a positive way and we’re always going to try and stay ahead of it,” said Riestra.
The facility holds state of the art machinery, like 4K technology in the operating room, 3D mammograms, and advanced CAT scans that allow for precise images to be taken quickly and consecutively.
The center will focus on outpatient care.
Another service the medical center will provide is excellence in sports medicine, with state-of-the-art facilities to heal any sports-related injuries for students, the university’s student-athletes, and even the Miami Marlins athletes, according to Dr. Lee Kaplan, chief of sports medicine.
Kaplan marveled on how having an enhanced facility on campus made it easily accessible for the student athletes and any student of the 300 club sports team.
“I’m not sure if any other university has this kind of service,” Kaplan said. “We can provide the best for student athletes and heal them comfortably.”
Before Lennar Foundation Medical Center, those with any sports-related injuries had to travel to the Miller School of Medicine in the Health District west of downtown Miami. Getting there could pose a problem, Dr. Kaplan said, because of heavy traffic in the area. Patients could take the MetroRail, but it could be uncomfortable for injured patients. Having UHealth Sports Medicine on the Coral Gables campus will alleviate this problem, Kaplan said.
“This bridges all student athletes and students from club sports to take better care of their bodies,” Kaplan said.
The Lennar Foundation Medical Center will open its doors to patients on Dec 5. The Student Health Center will move in by Dec. 19 and be open to students starting in January 2017. The UM pharmacy that used to be housed in the Student Health Center will be replaced by the Walgreens around the corner from the center on the first floor of the Lennar building.
Correction, Nov. 28, 2016: This story originally had an instance of the misspelling “caner.” The spelling has been corrected to “cancer.”