Winthrop-University Hospital is taking on diabetes and obesity, and adding a 95,000-square-foot research and academic building to help with the battle.
The hospital on Monday is holding a topping-off ceremony to install a final steel girder signed by employees to the $80 million research and academic building under construction next to its Mineola complex. Expected to be completed by December 2014, the five-story structure will house the hospital's researchers and medical students.
Research will focus on diabetes and obesity, hospital chief executive John Collins said. About 20 percent of patients who come to Winthrop for any reason have diabetes, he said, and about 60 percent of Americans are overweight or obese -- a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. Understanding more about basic causes of the diseases "can raise the bar" for treatment, he said.
"This focus, combined with an academic teaching environment that fosters collaboration among clinicians and researchers, will prepare the doctors of tomorrow to share in the development of leading-edge medical and scientific discoveries," he said.
Winthrop's chief research officer, Dr. Alan Jacobson, who came from Harvard's Joslin Diabetes Center about three years ago, already has assembled a team of seven full-time researchers. They are studying the role of pancreatic beta cells, which produce insulin, and complications that occur when those cells fail.
The building -- which will lead to as many as 45 new positions, including up to six more researchers -- will provide Jacobson and his colleagues needed space and state-of-the-art labs. It will also give the hospital's growing number of medical students classroom space, a simulation center, exam rooms and a 350-seat auditorium.
"We want to continue to attract young students," said hospital board chairman Charles Strain. In 2010, Winthrop became a clinical campus for Stony Brook University School of Medicine and it now has 40 third-year and 40 fourth-year medical students.
Dr. Steven Solov, director of undergraduate medical education, said the new building symbolizes the hospital's commitment to its students. "Yes, we're a community hospital, but we're also an academic facility as well," he said.
Students said the new building will enrich their experience.
"Doctors are essentially scientists," said third-year student Evan Feinberg, 23, who grew up in Long Beach. The new building is "a physical embodiment" of that, he said.