Medical Campus hires transportation program manager

The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Inc. has hired Thea Hassan from one of its partners, GoBike Buffalo, to help tackle transportation issues on the expanding Medical Campus.
Hassan, who began working as transportation program manager two weeks ago, previously worked as communication outreach director for GoBike Buffalo, where she first began volunteering prior to being hired in 2015.

An Ithaca native who also has worked for Ecology & Environment as a proposal coordinator and editor, Hassan said she welcomes the opportunity to further enhance transportation initiatives – with a health emphasis in mind – as the campus continues to grow.

By late fall, the new John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital will open and shortly thereafter, the University at Buffalo’s medical school will open – bringing even more workers, students and patients and their families to campus.

“There are a number of things we are looking at and we really try to look at transportation holistically,” said Hassan, who rides her bike daily to work on a 2-mile commute through all seasons of the year. “Our goal is a new way of thinking. Instead of expanding the supply, we try to reduce demand.”

Hassan said one of the top priorities is that BNMC – the non-profit umbrella organization of the anchor institutions that make up the 120-acre Medical Campus – works to restructure its transportation management association with institution partners on campus such as UB, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Kaleida Health among many others to address current and expected transportation needs.

“We’re working with them and local partners, such as GoBike Buffalo, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and the city, to really tackle the transportation issues on campus,” she said. “We’re restructuring in order to better address campus needs.”

Another new hire for the BNMC is Elizabeth Machnica, who is a healthy communities catalyst, joining the organization’s healthy communities team that works on initiatives that support and promote healthy food and active living among campus employees and residents in surrounding communities.

In addition to serving as a liaison to the many partners the organization works with, Machnica will work on programs that encourage healthy food and lifestyle choices among Medical Campus employees and the greater community.

Machnica  also conducts public health research through the lens of food and physical activity at the University at Buffalo’s Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab under Dr. Samina Raja. Prior to joining the BNMC, she served as a health educator dietitian with Wellness Corporate Solutions and sports dietitian with UB’s Athletics Department.

A Conversation with Paul Tyno, Strategic Advisor on Energy Initiatives for the BNMC

A Conversation with Paul Tyno, Strategic Advisor on Energy Initiatives for the BNMC


Paul Tyno is a respected energy industry professional who is responsible for implementing the Campus Energy Innovation Plan with our partners, member institutions and surrounding neighborhoods. His background includes building, designing and implementing complex demand response/load management programs and related demand side management solutions. Paul is a nationally recognized industry spokesperson and demand response subject area expert. He is the past Chairman of the Peak Load Management Alliance (PLMA), a professional industry organization.

Why the focus on Energy for a Medical Campus?

No one really understands the value of energy until you don’t have it.  For any medical institution, it is a foundational element that drives so much including all of the equipment, technology, and research, so ensuring continuous, high-quality power is critical. Any disruption can have significant, and potentially life threatening implications. In this digital age, there are also differing levels of power quality and, because of the nature of medical institutions, the quality has to be higher than other energy users. If your lights flicker at home, it is no big deal, but a similar disruption to sensitive medical equipment or technology could have profound implications.

How do the Campus and its member institutions benefit from a focus on energy?

From the beginning, we understood that it was important to create a high-level energy environment for the Campus and its medical institutions. As a campus with multiple institutions, we recognized that we have more robust opportunities for collective action that can maximize efficiencies and that our member institutions could socialize the costs to realize these benefits.  Working together may also bring more diversification to the strategies we employ that may not have been possible if member institutions worked alone. By focusing our efforts in this way, we can drive value for our member institutions.

As a “city within a city,” the BNMC is also in a unique position to drive change in the energy arena in ways that municipalities and utilities simply can’t. We can test, deploy and execute new wp-contentroaches that can become catalyst for change and potentially a model for others.  The Medical Campus and our overall region also benefit because high quality infrastructure signals innovation and a progressive wp-contentroach that attracts companies and professionals to this area.

How did the Energy Initiative begin on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus?

As the BNMC was completing its Campus Master Plan, we began having informal conversations with National Grid who challenged us to consider energy implications and to think about energy more holistically as we planned for growth.  That resulted in us collaborating to create EnergizeBNMC, a Campus energy plan that looked at the long term. By creating an energy plan, we put in place a formal planning structure that included energy considerations in the planning phase of development. This allowed us to collectively plan for future growth and ensure that the energy needs of the Campus could be met effectively and efficiently as part of the overall development plan.

After a career in industry and on the consulting side of the energy business, what was it about working for the non-profit BNMC that interested you?

The social impact of BNMC’s work and its energy focus was very wp-contentealing to me. Also, having been born and raised here, I was also drawn to the Buffalo-centric nature of the work – I like having a role, even on a small level, in Buffalo’s rebirth.

BNMC was recently awarded NY Prize for the design of a microgrid – what does that mean for the Medical Campus?

Regardless of the award, our focus has been the development of the Medical Campus and our surrounding neighborhoods as a self-sustaining energy hub, enabling us to “island” from the existing grid in the event of a catastrophe or to optimize energy on “blue sky” days.  We had begun planning for the development of a microgrid before NY Prize was introduced and it has helped us to fund the project. Collectively, the Campus wants to maximize economic value through the effective use of energy resources – both those that exist and future ones. While all microgrids seek to improve energy resiliency, particularly in the face of emergencies or extreme weather events, the BNMC will also have a significant focus on developing a microgrid business model that will drive cost savings and potential monetization opportunities for its member institutions.

How significant is the award and the work ahead?

The NY Prize for the design of the Medical Campus microgrid is very significant. The BNMC was one of only eleven other projects funded at this stage. We had been awarded $100,000 from Stage 1 NY Prize in 2015 for the initial feasibility study and now the Stage 2 funding, at wp-contentroximately $900,000, will help fund a more detailed design plan. This stage will allow us to develop strategies to outline technology, assets, location, ownership, operations and performance expectations.  Once completed, our member institutions will have the necessary information they will need to make decisions about enacting any or all parts of the plan and the role they want to play.  We envision this wp-contentroach will allow the Medical Campus to be connected and run parallel with the existing grid or to disconnect and run independently as a collective unit, providing the high quality power we require.

There are other benefits beyond core energy benefits as well including improving our ability to attract investment, new partners and new companies to the region. It also positions us as a model for other cities, Medical Campuses or Innovation Districts who may be interested in building a more robust energy plan for their region. Because the Medical Campus does not have a single point of governance, we may present a more “real world” model and be able to share lesson learned on collaboration and partnership.

What is the future goal or ideal state regarding Energy on Campus?

Even if our current vision of a self-sustaining energy hub becomes are reality, I don’t think we ever envision to be completely done with our energy work, as it is very dynamic. We will need to continue to respond and innovate based on the economics, the policy and regulatory environment and the evolution of technology and innovation in the marketplace.  Collaboration with our member institutions and industry partners makes this possible and I envision it will continue for the foreseeable future.

Medical Campus aims to be regional beacon of wellness

Medical Campus aims to be regional beacon of wellness

The Buffalo News

Almost 15 years ago, as leaders in the Western New York health field began to hatch ideas for a new medical campus in the Buffalo Fruit Belt, a tiny nonprofit designed to help nurture the effort got its first wellness grant.

Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Inc. has been working behind the scenes in the years since as cranes have come and gone on the 120-acre swath north of downtown, and the number of buildings has grown.

Its charge: Turn the Medical Campus into a model for healthy living across the region – and support similar efforts elsewhere.

“The campus is becoming more of a neighborhood than a medical community,” said Jonathan McNeice, who is helping plan the transformation. “Neighborhoods have people who want active things to do. They want access to food and healthy lifestyles. So the bigger picture is that we see the campus as a place of wellness and not just a place you come to for sick care.”

If the Medical Campus is to become a microcosm for a healthier Buffalo Niagara, its leaders must be able to answer key questions, including:

  • Can I walk or bike or take public transit to work?
  • Where can I find healthy food in the neighborhood?
  • Are there places to get some exercise?

Fueled by more than $7 million in grants – starting with a $200,000 Active Living by Design grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Inc. (BNMC) and its like-minded partners have begun to change the campus in the following ways.


Justin Booth, left, and Thea Hassan, both of GObike Buffalo, helped get bike lane markings on Ellicott Street on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, and continue to work to make the campus more bicycle friendly. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

One of the largest challenges the Medical Campus faces is that almost everybody who steps foot in the neighborhood takes a car to get there.

“I think for the revitalization of any city, you need a critical mass of people so that the transit options, the bike options, the car share options will be successful,” said McNeice, a healthy communities planner on the Medical Campus. “To be a modern urban city, you want to be multi-mobile. Maybe you want to take the subway part of the way and take your bike on the subway so that if you want to ride it the rest of the way to work, or run an errand or go to lunch, you’ve got that option.”

Work has begun to double the size of a parking ramp to 1,800 spaces behind the John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital, which is expected to open late this year.

Parking for patients and visitors will continue to be paramount, but the more than 12,000 people employed on the campus are encouraged to find other means to get to and from their workplaces, McNeice said. They can visit gobnmc-old.local to learn how.

“You’re looking at a dense urban core, where people want to live and want to work because it’s exciting,” said Kari Root Bonaro, BNMC communications director. “We really would like to get more employees to take transit, to walk, to bike, to live closer to campus. There’s both the healthy living aspect as well as building community.”

Reddy Bike Share plans to boost the number of rental bikes on the Medical Campus this year. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

The nonprofit also is working with others on a larger effort,, to encourage alternative transportation across the region, BNMC Planning Manager Jamie Hamann-Burney said.

The organization helped secure $8.4 million in federal, state and local funding to upgrade Ellicott Street – the spine of the Medical Campus street grid – into a linear park with bike lanes, wider sidewalks, benches and improved lighting. Nearly $7 million more has been allocated for the Allen Street stretch that will connect Allentown to the UB medical school and rest of the campus. Pocket parks – BNMC staff likes to call them “parkettes” – also have been sprinkled throughout the neighborhood.

Reddy Bike Share provided more than a half dozen rental bikes on the campus last year and will return with more bikes in the spring, along with a free trial membership to encourage employees to take advantage of the service. The nonprofit BNMC, which is housed at the Thomas R. Beecher Jr. Innovation Center on Ellicott Street along with nearly 100 health-related startup businesses, put a shipping container in a nearby parking lot for safe, indoor bike storage.

“We’re a medical campus where we offer health care, and a great way to be healthy is by actively commuting,” McNeice said. “Part of that is having the infrastructure.”


Jonathan McNeice, left a healthy communities planner with Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Inc., works last fall with Rosemary Wilson, a senior volunteer, in the garden at The Moot Community Center in the Fruit Belt. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

The Moot Community Center sits five blocks east of Buffalo General Medical Center. It participates in a countywide Stay Fit Dining Program but that doesn’t serve all the nutritional needs of seniors in the Fruit Belt, many of whom have limited financial means, transportation and access to healthy foods. Four of every five seniors who use the High Street center have Type 2 diabetes, said Daysi Ball, its assistant director of development and senior services.

“We get the breads, the desserts, all of the wonderful stuff that we love to eat but aren’t necessarily the most healthy, or the best for our seniors,” Ball said. “We wp-contentreciate everything – it’s very helpful – but we wanted to figure out ways to get more fresh foods and vegetables here.”

So the community center’s leaders – with help from McNeice, Grassroots Gardens, the Massachusetts Avenue Project and the Mulberry Street and Friends Block Club – decided last year to start a community garden and host a weekly farm market at Moot.

The efforts are part of a larger strategy to bring healthier food options to those who will live, work and visit the Medical Campus and surrounding communities in years to come.

McNeice – who grew up in Canada and whose family owned the Lakeside Marketeria in Oakville, Ont. – is the point person in the effort to more meaningfully connect the campus with farmers in the region.

“I got to see the industry changing” in 1990s, when supermarket and hardware chains drove many mom and pop shops out of business, and often bypassed small local suppliers, he said.

McNeice, 38, first came to Buffalo to get his master’s degree in urban planning. He left to work on food policy and wellness planning in Toronto and Edmonton before returning to the city three years ago. While at UB, he worked in the university’s Food Lab, the key player in efforts that have begun to bear fruit on the Medical Campus when it comes to helping forge stronger bonds between hospitals, schools, retailers, community centers and farmers.

“We were fortunate to get Jonathan to come and bring a totally different perspective,” said Matthew Enstice, president and CEO of the BNMC.

Medical Campus planner Jonathan McNeice has worked in Toronto, Edmonton and Buffalo. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)









McNeice and others are at work on a Healthy Corner Store Initiative that looks to bring fresh produce into convenience stores not only on the campus but in neighborhoods across the city where access to fresh fruits and vegetables is limited.

Farmers’ markets have been established at the Salvation Army branch and Buffalo Place along the ring of campus, as well as the Moot Center. The BNMC also worked with Farmers & Artisans last year to set up a “farm-to-work table” that offered regional goods on Wednesdays at the Innovation Center.

The resurgent and growing “farm-to-table” attitude in the region helped spur six community gardens on the Medical Campus, including two fostered by Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Inc.

Ball is among those who have seen the planning pay dividends.

Grassroots Gardens worked with Moot Center staff and volunteers to clear a patch of land off the back parking lot last spring, plant a strawberry patch and fill nine raised garden beds with vegetables that included heirloom tomatoes, broccoli, squash, kale, cucumbers “and all sorts of peppers,” Ball said. “It really was wonderful. We were not only able to harvest the vegetables here at the center – for use in our kitchen to supplement the lunches – we also were able to distribute the harvest to the seniors.”

Some seniors canned collard greens and Swiss chard, Ball said, and “there were a number of opportunities for them to learn more about the foods and how to incorporate them into their diets.

“Historically, we’ve been more of a social center where you come for social activities,” she said. “The seniors wanted health-related, tangible outcomes. We wanted to provide more preventative programs. We’ve done that.”


Attendance at yoga classes in the Innovation Center have been strong, Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus officials say. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

David Longhini took his first yoga class on the Medical Campus in January, two days after he started a new job with BlueWolf, a medical sales force consulting company in the dig, or Design Innovation Garage, inside the Innovation Center on Ellicott Street.

“I was definitely down for it,” said Longhini, 24, a Dansville native who lives in the Elmwood Village. “I love everything about what’s hwp-contentening here. One of the top reasons I took the job – I left Rich Products – was to be closer to downtown, the dig and the Medical Campus. It’s very important for me to see this area thrive.”

On the fitness front, the BNMC supported a “100 Days of Summer” last year that brought the Independent Health Fitness in the Parks program onto campus for the first time. It helped throw a fitness festival last June. And the Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo led a weekly Walking on Wednesday sojourn starting and ending outside Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

The nonprofit also has been a consistent supporter of the Buffalo Green Code, advocating for more bike lanes across Buffalo, including on the Medical Campus.

McNeice, Hamann-Burney and others have worked with GObike Buffalo as they have eyed future transportation in the neighborhood and beyond, and both nonprofits recently were among the organizations to receive a five-year, $250,000 Creating Healthy Schools & Communities grant from the state Department of Health. Among other projects, the grant will provide Healthy Workplace assessments and programming support for businesses on and off the campus.

“Broadly speaking, active living is very important,” McNeice said.

That becomes even more true, he said, on a medical campus that aspires to lead by example.

“Neighbors and communities go up and down with the times but anchor institutions can withstand that,” McNeice said. “Largely, the role we play is that steady force behind the scenes. We’re looking for gaps in how we bring things together.”

Part of the job is asking, “What if?” “How do we help improve our community?”

“What if a medical campus was a place of wellness? What does that look like?” McNeice said. “Maybe it’s a place where you’re not just coming when you’re sick but you go there to get physically active, get fit, learn to cook from scratch. That’s where our head is at going forward.”


Twitter: @BNrefresh, @ScottBScanlon

A medical campus leader

A medical campus leader

Vic Nole had spent the past decade trying to help medical companies commercialize products and technologies when, in 2014, he was hired to do a similar job on behalf of an entire region.

Nole is director of business development for Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Inc., a process that involves getting personally involved with companies on the medical campus and building broader strategies to support their growth.

BNMC Inc. owns several facilities that house high-tech companies and also exists to serve other major commercialization actors on the campus, including the University at Buffalo, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute.

Nole holds an important job on the campus, where the combined public and private investment of the last 10 years has been more than $1 billion, partly to improve health care in Buffalo but also to help generate a new economy.

How would you describe your job? Part of it is working with small teams to help them build business models to commercialize a product or technology. BNMC Inc. doesn’t have a huge staff or depth of knowledge in that area, so we rely on our network to facilitate introductions and access to resources. Another area is working with our member institutions on the medical campus, helping them map out assets and open doors so we can market a broader capability outside of Buffalo in the hopes of attracting new companies.

What kind of environment are you trying to build for startups? We’re trying to provide workspace, education, access to business resources and then networking opportunities, and to put in place infrastructure and amenities in those four areas. Then any company that is part of the campus community can plug into any of those things. They can come to me and say, “Hey, do you know an expert in regulatory affairs?” Or “Can you help me sell my product in China?” There is still a lot of work to do. Lab facilities are quickly filling up across campus. Our mentor network still needs to grow. We recently launched our i4 Studio (in collaboration with SUNY Buffalo State’s International Center for Studies in Creativity), a creativity lab that’s part of our evolving education program.

The campus is a widely used symbol of Buffalo’s economic resurgence. Is there real momentum here? The reason the campus has been so successful is that everyone is working together. Three years ago, we had 35 to 40 companies on the campus; now there are more than 120, and nearly 50 of them are in life sciences. Ten years ago, most intellectual property generated at the University at Buffalo or Roswell Park Cancer Institute got licensed and went outside of Buffalo. We’re finally at a point where we have enough infrastructure, processes and systems in place, and enough collaboration between our members, that we can design and launch our own life sciences companies. The growth is good but we still need critical mass. When I am out in Boston talking to investors, you need a certain amount of companies to get them on a plane. If you tell them you have 200 companies, it’s going to catch their attention.

What do you think the future of the campus holds? I’m bullish. Some of these companies are going to start to emerge and catch the attention of people outside the area. The image of the campus has grown, which is helping us attract more talent and more money. And as you start to bring in more assets, it just accelerates your programs. So I would think that if we’re sitting here today at 120 companies, we could double that in five years.

Dan Miner covers startups, education, manufacturing and public companies.