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Building West Reading Campus, Architects Focus on Community

September 18, 2020

By Lisa Ryan

SLAM architects aren't just building a new facility in West Reading for Drexel University College of Medicine at Tower Health -- they're building a community hub.

SLAM president Robert Polito said the West Reading campus will join the architecture firm's portfolio of more than 40 medical education projects for clients across the United States, each built to accommodate the ever-changing curricula and constantly evolving technological needs of medical education.

However, Polito said there is one factor that makes the College of Medicine's West Reading campus, which is being built in collaboration with Tower Health, stand out from the rest.

"What's different about the College of Medicine's new location from other medical education facilities we've built, is how much our focus here is about the students and training them,” Polito said. "We're creating a space that will prepare them to not only wear the physician's coat, but to be the type of person who lives up to the values of the profession.”

Polito's team has been working with the increasing importance of technology in medical education in mind. Students will hone clinical skills in simulation and anatomy labs, and practice diagnostic and interpersonal communication skills in simulated patient rooms. The building will also include traditional classrooms and lecture halls.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing are impacting all of us now, the building has been designed for a future that hopefully holds a return to some normalcy. As such, classroom and common spaces allow for collaborative learning and face-to-face interaction, and the facility includes a fitness center, indoor and outdoor recreation areas, library, lounges and game room, and café.

New facility in West Reading for Drexel University College of Medicine at Tower Health

Drexel will continue to closely monitor the ongoing changes in pandemic conditions and the latest guidelines set forth by government public health officials and adjust plans for in-person learning and parameters for campus life as needed.

In 2021, Drexel University College of Medicine at Tower Health plans to begin educating its inaugural class of 40 first-year medical students at the new location. This learning experience includes the same outstanding curriculum as the Philadelphia campus, expert faculty, and opportunities for students to pursue their passions through exposure to a diverse and underserved community. The first years in the class of 2025 will join the 3rd and 4th year College of Medicine students undertaking their clinical rotations at Reading Hospital.

Even as students are immersed in the learning environment, they'll also connect with the West Reading community. Polito said the building's design allows for excellent views of the region's mountains, keeping students connected to the area amid the school day.

Drexel medical students will benefit from the additional site in an area that is experiencing economic growth, while studying medicine at the largest hospital between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

The new campus will bring faculty, staff, students and families who will become patrons of local stores, restaurants, hotels and other businesses in the community. It will also increase jobs for physicians, educators and other disciplines.

"There's a lot of research that says that if you teach and train your doctors in a particular region, more of them will stay and practice in the area,” Polito said.