The University of California, Irvine, will start construction this month on its new nine-acre campus that it says will be a national showcase for integrative medicine.
UCI will start construction on the $185 million Samueli College of Health Science complex, which will incorporate the university’s medical school.
The site, adjacent to the UCI Research Park, will include a state-of-the-art, five-story building that will house the Susan and Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences and an adjoining four-story building for the Sue and Bill Gross School of Nursing, the university said in an announcement.
“UCI is creating a national model for integrative health teaching, research, and delivery,” UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman said in the announcement. “These two new buildings, part of our expanded health sciences campus, will ensure that our dedicated researchers and clinicians set a standard that, over time, other medical centers in the U.S. can follow.”
The construction is made possible in part by a $200 million gift made in 2017 by billionaires Susan and Henry Samueli—the largest gift in the school’s history—to launch the new health center dedicated to integrative medicine.
Critics, however, jumped on the donation used to name a first-of-its-kind College of Health Sciences to promote alternative therapies. Those critics said it’s another slide down the slippery slope that allows unproven therapies into mainstream medicine and lends legitimacy to invalid practices.
At the time, physicians at UC Irvine said medical schools are too slow to adopt new approaches, including alternative therapies.
The school said the new College of Health Sciences is the first university-based health sciences enterprise to incorporate integrative health research, teaching and patient care across its schools and programs. Integrative health considers the factors that influence health, wellness and disease, including mind, body and spirit and makes use of appropriate preventatives, therapeutic and lifestyle approaches, the school said.
“Optimal health and healing come from taking an integrative approach to healthcare that is patient-centered, science-based, transdisciplinary and team-delivered,” Steve Goldstein, M.D., vice chancellor for health affairs, said in the announcement.
“Moving from the status quo to improved care for our population requires an expanded focus to promote health and well-being and more effectively deliver healthcare using all evidence-based approaches across the lifespan. This health sciences complex will be at the epicenter of the transformation of the current healthcare system, as well as a site for research and the training of the next generation of healthcare professionals,” Goldstein said.
The construction will include a 150-seat auditorium, a central courtyard that connects with the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, landscape design elements that support activities such as yoga and tai chi, a Zen garden, and a 600-foot-long wellness walk that leads to the School of Medicine’s Biomedical Research Center, the university said.
In addition, the health sciences building will house the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute. The project also includes a pad for a proposed School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences building. There are also plans to create a School of Population Health, currently the university’s program in public health.
The project is also supported by a gift from the William and Sue Gross Family Foundation, which in 2016 committed $40 million to UCI to establish a nursing school and assist in the construction of a new building to house it.