Last month, Niagara University and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center affirmed that they will be working together in commitment to promoting revitalization and economic growth in not only the city of Niagara Falls, but also all of Niagara County and Western New York, while encouraging international tourism. On Sept. 9, the men in charge of the organizations signed a memorandum of understanding at NU's Niagara Global Tourism Institute in downtown Niagara Falls, signaling a new era of collaboration.
Before they signed the MOU, Father James J. Maher, CM, president of Niagara University, and Joseph A. Ruffolo, president and CEO of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, said the partnership between the university and the hospital will allow NU students to work directly with the hospital and encourage Canadian and other patients from abroad to receive treatment there, with a goal of helping the area.
"St. Vincent de Paul was, at his core, an entrepreneur, and one of the expressions of his entrepreneurship was the development of dynamic partnerships and bringing together of people that you might not ordinary think would be together," Father Maher said. "This partnership between Niagara University and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center is a dynamic partnership between a health care institution that is critically needed in our community and provides wonderful service, and an educational intuition that seeks to do the same."
Father Maher noted he hopes the partnership will reinforce and express the values that both institutions share and services they provide, with a vision of benefitting the community of Niagara Falls and the Greater Buffalo region. "(We hope) the shadow will be cast in an elongated way to bring social and economic benefits to the people of this city, and of this region, who so desperately need it," he said.
"At Memorial Medical Center, we have faith. We have tremendous faith in Niagara Falls and in all of Western New York. We see the potential of a region that has incredible geographical and intellectual assets, a thirst for innovation in such fields as education and health care, and a strong and enduring tradition of providing community service," Ruffolo added. "What we've hoped for, and continue to hope for - although we haven't seen it yet in this generation, anyways - is prosperity and economic growth."
Ruffolo said Niagara Falls is home to approximately 26,560 economically disadvantaged people who are living on Medicaid, which is roughly 55 percent of the total population of Niagara Falls. However, the partnership between two of the largest "economic engines" of the area, he said, offers hope for the future, since both organizations are committed to helping the poor, oppressed and those with special needs.
The signing took place before representatives of both of the organizations, local elected officials, media and others. In addition to Father Maher and Ruffolo, others who were present were Father Kevin G. Creagh, CM, vice president for mission and ministry at NU; City of Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster; Michael Stoffman, M.D., chief of neurosurgery at NFMMC; Dr. Timothy J. Freer, vice president of human resources at the medical center; and Patrick Whalen, director of the Niagara Global Tourism Institute.
According to Dyster, "nothing is more gratifying" for a city's mayor than to see two of its largest and best partners partnering with one another. In addition to this memorandum, NU also did this when it announced its new "Big Eagle Little Eagle" program the previous week, pooling resources of NU and Niagara Falls High School to allow the college students to serve as mentors for the high school students.
Dr. Timothy O. Ireland, interim provost and chief academic officer at NU, noted the partnership will be helping not just the university's 400 nursing students, but those in many other majors as well.
"The alliance we announce today is an important next step that commits us to combining our strengths in ways that will provide significant economic benefits to the entire region: economic development initiatives, specifically around workforce development, around medical tourism and around research," Ruffolo also told conference attendees. "This is much more than words on a piece of paper. (Father Maher) and I will be joined by the senior leadership teams of both the university and medical center to play active roles in the execution and implementation of every aspects of this greatly-expanded collaboration."
John Percy, president and CEO of the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation, served as master of ceremonies at the press conference. Dr. Debra A. Colley, executive vice president of NU, and Judith Nolan Powell, vice president of community relations at NFMMC, gave introductory remarks.