College of Osteopathic Medicine gains city approval

Luke Henne | sports editor. The City Planning Commission's approval of the College of Osteopathic Medicine is significant because it provides the last approval needed to acquire a building permit so the construction process can begin on site, according to Rod Dobish, Duquesne associate vice president and chief facilities officer.

by Luke Henne | sports editor

March 31, 2022

After receiving approval from Pittsburgh’s Planning Commission on March 22, Duquesne University now has the green light to continue in its plans to construct the building that will house the school’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.

The college, which is tentatively scheduled to open in time for the fall 2024 semester, will be built close to the intersection of Forbes Avenue and Magee Street, just across from the university’s UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse.

Rod Dobish, Duquesne’s associate vice president and chief facilities officer, said that while the approval was expected and consistent with Pittsburgh’s project development guidelines, it’s still an important step.

“City Planning’s approval of the COM is significant in that it provides the last approval needed to acquire a building permit so we can begin the construction process on the site and the building can begin to take shape,” Dobish said.

With the multipurpose athletic facility and osteopathic medicine school figuring to become integral parts of Pittsburgh’s Uptown neighborhood in the immediate future, many like Dobish are grateful for the neighborhood’s compliance throughout the process.

“Duquesne University is proud to be part of the Uptown community, and this facility will engage the neighborhood in positive ways, including increasing foot traffic,” Dobish said. “A critical part of the city’s approval process is to engage the community through a recognized community organization, which is Uptown Partners of Pittsburgh.

“They have been supportive of the project throughout the approval process.”

Dobish believes that the building process will provide an economic boost, especially following the ramifications caused by Covid-19.

“The construction phase of this project alone will create more than 600 jobs on a direct and indirect basis,” Dobish said. “In addition, the COM will allow the university to do its part to alleviate the shortage of primary care physicians in the region.

“One of the many things we experienced during Covid is how taxing the pandemic was on medical facilities and personnel. This new college will train and educate the next generation of doctors.”

With the approval officially in place, Dobish said the next steps are already getting underway.

“The general contractor, Rycon Construction, has mobilized and is on site doing grading and preparing the site for construction activities,” Dobish said. “One of the first things you will see on the site is drilling for caissons, which are supporting structures for steel that will be erected after the concrete caissons are installed.

“Steel will then arrive and everyone will get to see the building take shape. By the time students return to campus in the fall, there will be a great deal of activity on the site.”

After the osteopathic medicine school received a $3 million grant from the Henry L. Hillman Foundation in late January, Dr. John Kauffman – who is tentatively set to serve as the college’s dean – told The Duke last month that such a grant will help enable and ease the recruitment of future students.

“Training physicians for the twenty-first century requires state-of-the-art facilities filled with technologically advanced equipment,” Kauffman said.  

“This grant will allow us to provide state-of-the-art facilities, as well as the latest cutting-edge equipment to train physicians ready to enter the modern healthcare workforce.”

Kauffman said that modernized and innovative technology will be at the students’ disposal.

“By training our students with the latest technology, they will be better prepared to practice medicine, gain the best possible education and will have a deeper understanding of the latest technology used in hospitals and practices,” Kauffman said last month. “As part of accomplishing that goal, our medical students’ training will include ultrasound and the latest in holographic anatomy education, utilizing the HoloLens [a head-mounted display that offers users the chance to engage with Microsoft’s Mixed Reality platform].”

Dobish offered similar thoughts, saying that the facility and its technology could and should set Duquesne apart from many universities.

“With its technologically advanced facilities and equipment, Duquesne will provide students with a medical education experience not available at most other medical schools,” Dobish said. 

“These state-of-the-art facilities, coupled with our focus on service and health disparities, will help us recruit the best and brightest students to train here at Duquesne.”

He added that the college will stay consistent with one of the university’s goals: assisting its students during and following their time at Duquesne.

“The COM embodies Duquesne’s mission to serve students, so they can serve others,” Dobish said. “The new college will expand Pittsburgh’s contributions to medical excellence, educating and training future doctors to help alleviate a national shortage.”

“These doctors will also help address community health needs, especially in underserved urban and rural areas.”

Per an August 2019 release, the college will become the second medical school in Pittsburgh and the first Catholic osteopathic medicine school in Pennsylvania.

Duquesne anticipates that the COM, which officially broke ground with a formal ceremony on March 1, will see an inaugural class of 75 students before growing its enrollment to approximately 600 students by the time it reaches its full development.