As reported by the Farmington Patch, August 11, 2011.

Town, UConn Look Forward to Bright Future Together

Bioscience Connecticut expansion will build new patient tower, local economy.

By Kaitlin McCallum

The relationship between the school and the town may have gotten a rocky start when the University of Connecticut Health Center opened 50 years ago, but at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, Dr. Bruce Liang, interim dean of the UConn Medical School, joined town officials in celebrating the development of a partnership both sides expect to extend into a bright future.

Liang took the temporary position when Dr. Cato Laurencin announced he was stepping down in June. Liang is also the director of the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center.

“In the beginning we did not have a great interaction between town of Farmington and the health center itself. It’s tremendous how we’ve really come together and how you’ve contributed to the town of Farmington … it adds to the town incredibly,” said council member CJ Thomas.

He began his presentation with pictures of shaggy-haired medical students crowded in temporary classrooms and a field, dotted with cows, where the health center would be built.

“At that time there was a debate. Everybody said we needed a medical school for the state and you’ve got to have classrooms in the lecture hall … but you really need to train doctors so you need a clinical setting,” Liang said, explaining the push to tie the medical school to a downtown Hartford hospital. That the argument did not prevail was critical to the school’s development.

“Today we’re talking about integration of cutting-edge clinical research with a teaching facility,” Liang said. “Look at other medical schools. That’s what they have: an integrated medical center and hospital within walking distance. It was the vision of the future.”

Today, Liang said, after 50 years, more than 5,000 graduates and 76 patents for technologies ranging from braces material to cancer therapies, UConn is still growing into that vision.

“We have this opportunity of once in a lifetime of building a medical complex, with the additional opportunity of a research lab,” Liang said, referring to Gov. Dannel Malloy’s Bioscience Connecticut plan and the spread of the bioscience industry in Farmington’s bioscience corridor near the hospital.

Liang said he has seen the promise of Bioscience Connecticut begin to draw top-tier candidates to UConn as students, researchers and applicants for the 100 new teaching positions that come with the expansion.

But while developing new treatments and nurturing young bioscience start-up companies is important, there’s a more basic calling for the school.

“A lot of time and resources have to be invested to make a mature expert physician or dentist. It is very meaningful mission. We serve society in training the next generation of physicians for society,” Liang said.

“The new possibilities are amazing,” said Nancy Nickerson, who filled in as chairman in Mike Clark’s absence. At the new Cell and Genome Research Building “we were speechless and we just stood and watched. It’s amazing what we saw, what can be done in the future and that we can be a part of here in Farmington.”