Joint Health Sciences Center to Connect Research Among Camden Universities

By Vincent DeBlasio, April 23, 2019

(Camden, NJ) A first-of-its-kind facility for New Jersey located in the city’s "Eds and Meds" corridor is another step closer to opening its doors.

On Monday, the principal tour of the Joint Health Sciences Center, expected to be completed this fall, revealed the inner framework of the $70 million biomedical hub, situated between 5th Street and Broadway along Martin Luther King Boulevard.

The 100,000-square-foot facility will connect the city's four higher education institutions – Rowan University, Rutgers University–Camden, Camden County College, and the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University – in a collaborative space dedicated to research.

“We’re going to see some of the region’s best and brightest scientific minds flocking to Camden when this project is completed,” said Dana Redd, CEO of the Rowan University/Rutgers–Camden Board of Governors. “The city will soon be synonymous with scientific and medical innovation. We expect this to make Camden one of the most sought-after research destinations in the state of New Jersey.”

Two-thirds of the building's footprint is planned for education and career training. Four floors will house research laboratory space for Rowan and Rutgers–Camden, simulation rooms for medical students at Cooper Medical School, and instructional areas and simulation rooms for Camden County College as part of an expanded nursing program.

The facility will also include offices for the Rowan University/Rutgers–Camden Joint Board, a first-floor cafe, a rooftop terrace and general-use multipurpose spaces.

Standing among a crowd of officials and higher education leaders in a future fourth-floor biomedical lab, Rowan President Ali Houshmand tried to capture the city's moment.

"I think we should stop talking about Camden rising and start saying Camden's now flourishing," Houshmand said. "This is the largest concentration of medical schools in the world. We can truly turn this into a destination."

Phoebe Haddon, Rutgers University–Camden Chancellor, expressed anticipation of the results from the types of interdisciplinary work and "cutting-edge" research to come.

"We are going to cover this terrain in a way that's truly significant because of the strength of the sciences in Rutgers as a whole," said Haddon, the daughter of Ida Bassette, one of the NASA "Hidden Figures" that inspired the movie of the same name.

"(My mother's) smiling down and saying 'somehow my daughter got some of what I was imparting and drawing up,'" Haddon joked.

Construction on the facility began in the fall of 2017, but the planning has been more of a journey.

Jack Collins, chairman of the Board of Governors, recalled the work over the last six years in reaching a beneficial plan for the entire city, including the sponsoring of a bill by U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross (D-1), at that time a New Jersey State Senator, in the legislature.

When first asked to take on his current role, Collins was less than enthusiastic at the thought of the challenges he would face.

"Maybe I didn't start with the most positive of attitudes, but it's really overwhelming (how far this project has come)," said Collins, who has been involved in higher education for 35 years.

An estimated $72 million will be generated in economic impact in Camden and $122 million statewide by the time the project is completed.

"I can't wait for the discovery that will come out of some young mind here and change the world," Norcross said.