Yale has quietly begun building a new clinical and research center for musculoskeletal diseases, set to open in 2016 or 2017.

The center will be located at the Saint Raphael campus of Yale-New Haven Hospital. It will bring together researchers and physicians in fields ranging from orthopaedic surgery to neurology. The center, which is still in need of as much as $30 million, is being built in anticipation of growing demand for musculoskeletal medicine as the population ages, said Abe Lopman, senior vice president, operations and executive director of Smilow Cancer Hospital.

“The fastest-growing portion of our population is an aging population. We need to get ahead of diseases to keep people healthy,” Lopman said. “The comprehensiveness of this in bringing the disciplines together is unmatched.”

The institute will be the third multidisciplinary center in New Haven, joining the ranks of the Child Study Center and the Smilow Cancer Hospital. Though the center will initially be based at the St. Raphael campus, it will eventually expand to treat a larger geographic area in Connecticut.

Lopman said the center will be comparable to other leading musculoskeletal institutes, such as the University of Rochester, Washington University, the Rothman Institute and the Hospital for Special Surgery. But unlike these institutes, which were created when the field was less advanced, YNHH will have the ability to start from a clean slate to create a more comprehensive institute.

The center will also be an ideal place to bring laboratory research to the bedside as treatment moves away from surgery and into less-invasive alternatives like stem cell therapy, Lopman added.

“Medical knowledge is becoming more and more specialized and subspecialized,” said Peter Jokl ’64 MED ’68, professor of orthopaedics and rehabilitation at the Yale School of Medicine. “Even if you look at orthopaedics at Yale, we have probably six or seven subspecialties in orthopedics. For the bewildering array of people that need to work together, putting them in one institute is a huge step forward in giving the patient the optimum care.”

Jokl said he believes that the center will have significant academic benefits, such as exposing residents to a broad array of musculoskeletal diseases and conducting clinical trials on rarer forms of musculoskeletal disease.

Though no large donor has been identified, YNHH is searching for philanthropic supporters to finance the center, Lopman said.

“Our goal is to raise as much as $30 million to support the project through a philanthropic campaign,” Lopman said in a Thursday email. “While there is a great deal of enthusiasm for the Center, we are still in the early stages of that campaign.”

The remainder of the funds will come from capital investments that YNHH pledged to the Hospital of Saint Raphael when the two merged, he added.

Lopman said talent recruitment has been a top priority for the new center, and a national search for its director continues.

But according to Kristaps Keggi ’55 MED ’59, professor of orthopaedics and rehabilitation, two highly qualified candidates for director of the center have already turned down the position. Keggi said that the process of designing the center, while necessary, has been important. He said he is also worried that the director selected will not have hands-on experience with orthopaedic surgery.

“It makes sense to have people working and researching and taking care of patients together, but it has to be organized properly,” Keggi said. “The University has kind of been sidelined a little bit, I think. Have I been consulted, or have my colleagues been consulted? No, not as much as I think we should have been … which is unfortunate, because we as orthopedic surgeons know more about the musculoskeletal system than any other specialty.”

The development of a new multidisciplinary center fits into a national trend of consolidation, Keggi said. As medicine becomes more costly, consolidation efforts are a logical step in making treatment more cost efficient. By having a center where many different subspecialties work as a team and discuss treatment, unnecessary surgeries and tests can be eliminated, saving time and money, he added.

“The number of dollars involved is huge,” he said.

Yale-New Haven Hospital merged with the Hospital of Saint Raphael in 2012.