“Never in my wildest dreams,” said Mitchell Shub, MD, of Phoenix Children’s Hospital, explaining his wonderment upon completion of the new Health Sciences Education Building (HSEB).

Former vice dean Jacqueline Chadwick, MD, who was the first university official in Phoenix for the College, shared that amazement. To put things in perspective, she even made a special trip to drive by the small offices on Indian School Road that housed the College of Medicine’s original efforts in Phoenix.

“Every time I walk into the Health Sciences Education Building, I pinch myself,” Dr. Shub said. “I think about how we cobbled things together and held together these efforts. And even when we moved into the (historic buildings) — even that was more than we thought we would ever see in our lifetime. The new building just blows me away.”

For Drs. Chadwick, Shub, Alan Leibowitz, James McLoone, John Mattox and the late Mel Cohen, the creation of what is now one of the newest medical colleges in the nation seemed a distant dream.

These seasoned professionals have invested many years, personal and professional commitment, expertise and downright tenacity, to make this campus and this college a reality. All contributed from their respective fields and their respective hospitals. All were teachers and saw the need for the development of this medical school in Phoenix.

Just imagine, it all started with third- and fourth-year clerkships in 1992, which led to the formalization of plans throughout the next several years — the foundation for developing curriculum and the creation of department subchairs in Phoenix.

As the College’s presence grew in Phoenix, more and more community physicians volunteered to serve as faculty.

By the turn of the millennium, the state and city embraced the vision and plans began to materialize into what is now an established college with its first two graduating classes proudly placed into residency training. Presently, there are 301 students learning in the state-of-the-art HSEB, a building that has received national recognition for its design and function in training the next generation of health care providers.

But it was less than two decades in the making.

Dr. Leibowitz remembers the core group and others scrambling to turn around a curriculum outline as requested by the governor with meetings being held on the top floor of the Translational Genomics Research Institute. That is, when the Translational Genomics Research Institute was the only functioning entity on the block.

“You could look out and all we could see was a vacant lot,” he said. “And these three little buildings that were part of the old Phoenix Union High School.”

Dr. Leibowitz noted that plans were made to differentiate the Phoenix campus from other schools, leading to the creation of the scholarly project, making the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix one of only four schools nationwide to have such a requirement.

Differentiating the school was key during the early days since state and local officials weren’t unanimous in their support for the development of the college. Arguments had to be made to the highest points of government. Presentations were given to countless community and business groups. Reaching out to the community and highlighting the merit of the medical school, and what it could become were critical.

“I didn’t ever think I would see anything like this, for sure in my lifetime,” Dr. Chadwick said, recalling her recent tour of the former College of Medicine – Phoenix offices at the Maricopa Medical Society, the UA space in an office complex at Third Street and Indian School before coming to the HSEB grand opening ceremonies in October of 2012.

In retrospect, Dr. Chadwick said, moving from modest beginnings in the early 1990s to the renovation of the historic buildings to admission of the first class in 2007 was unprecedented.

“Really when you think of it, in academic time, this is like light speed,” she said. “Academia traditionally moves very, very slow. For us to have done this in this community in 20 years is phenomenal. It speaks to the community, it speaks to the level of involvement and engagement and dedication of the people. ”

For the founders — Drs. Chadwick, Shub, Mattox, Leibowitz, McLoone, Cohen, and others — the road has been bumpy, but rewarding. For us, we are most thankful that they paved that road with vision, tenacity and patience, and will continue to lead us into the next chapter of their creation that we call our school.