Buffalo's Harborcenter is getting a new sponsor. On the doors, walls and every other available space at the downtown hockey rink, a college of osteopathic medicine will now be included on the signs.
LECOM is Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, a rapidly growing network of medical schools and other healthcare training centers based in Erie, PA. It is opening a school in Elmira, NY next fall. All total, LECOM schools in Elmira, Pennsylvania and Bradenton, FL will have 4,100 students next year.
With the new sponsorship, Harborcenter becomes LECOM Harborcenter, and Pegula Sports and Entertainment President and CEO Kim Pegula said her company is putting up scholarship money to help students through school.
"We have partnered with LECOM to make a significant scholarship initiative for aspiring medical, pharmacy and dental students in Western New York and the Southern Tier," Pegula said. "We have committed $1 million over the next 10 years for students coming from each of our 22 area counties and, for each year, we will be awarding 10 students with $10,000 scholarships. This initiative will create more medical professionals in our area."
She noted the doctors and other medical personnel needed for the Buffalo Bills and Sabres, from dentists to orthopedic surgeons.
Albion native Pete Nesbitt is excited about the partnership, as a high school football player, college lacrosse player, sports fan and fourth-year medical student.
"I watched the game yesterday of the Bills playing and it almost gave me a heart attack. So I really, as a big diehard fan like this, having these two sports in this community has been really, really great for Buffalo, even outside of Buffalo, for us," Nesbitt said.
While he once considered a career in sports medicine, Nesbitt said he is now planning a career in radiology.
LECOM Provost Dr. Silvia Ferretti said the growing network of medical colleges will help deal with the national and Western New York shortage of doctors. She said there are graduates of the network already practicing medicine in Western New York and northern Pennsylvania and there will be more.
Ferretti noted the similarities between pro athletes and med students.
"Athletes are very important people in the medical profession because they are people that have managed two careers: their academic career and their sports career," Ferretti said. "So they are good at time management. They know how to keep their nose to the grindstone. They know how to stand up after failure and it is no easy task to be one of these health care professionals."