Campus News

Tjota family donates $500,000 for medical robotics suite

Members of the Tjota family standing together.

From left: Nicole Tjota; Natalie Tjota, ’21; their mother, Melawati Yuwono; and Patrick Tjota pose for a photo in the Jacobs School. Not pictured: Melissa Tjota. Photo: Joe Cascio

By MARY COCHRANE

Published September 13, 2018

The children of the late Amin Tjota (pronounced “Chota”) know their father would have been thrilled with the new home of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB.

“Our dad was never able to see the new building, but knowing him, we know he would have been so excited to see the changes that have taken place on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus,” the Tjota siblings — Patrick, Melissa, Nicole and Natalie — said in a joint statement.

On Aug. 15, the Tjota family was present for the unveiling of the newly named robotics suite — the Amin Tjota, MD, PhD ’91, Melawati Yuwono, MD, and Tjota Family Advanced Procedures Suite — on the seventh floor of the Jacobs School building.

UB named the suite for the family, which gave $500,000 to the Jacobs School in honor of Amin Tjota, who died in 2017 after spending his career as an oncologist in Buffalo.

The Tjota children said they gave to UB because their father wished to remain connected to the place where he received his training and began his career. They chose the robotics suite, officially known as the Advanced Procedures Suite, because of his talent for research and innovation as a physician-scientist. Their gift will support collaboration between campus colleagues and industry partners focusing on the use of robotics in surgery and data collection.

The suite is a critical component of the UB RIS2E2 (Research, Innovation, Simulation, Structure, Education, Engineering) program in the Jacobs School. In this custom-designed space, advanced robotic technology will be optimized for training and research, and new devices will be developed for use in the operating room. Individual labs within the Tjota Advanced Procedures Suite support work on a variety of therapeutic and diagnostic testing devices while providing the privacy needed for development of proprietary innovations.

Nationally recognized physician-scientists at UB co-lead UB RIS2E2: Steven Schwaitzberg, chair of the Department of Surgery in the Jacobs School and a pioneer in minimally invasive surgery; John Marzo, team physician for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills for two decades; and John Tomaszweski, SUNY Distinguished Professor and the Peter A. Nickerson, PhD, Chair of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences in the Jacobs School, who is a national leader in digital pathology and computational modeling.  

Born in Jakarta, Indonesia, Amin Tjota met his future wife, Melawati Yuwono, at medical school in Germany. After earning their degrees, the couple moved to Buffalo, where Yuwono completed a residency and fellowship through UB, and Tjota earned a doctoral degree from the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, which awards degrees through the UB Graduate School.  

Tjota joined the Department of Pediatrics at the then-Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo as director of the gastroenterology lab and fellowship director with Thomas Rossi. He and Yuwono also led a medical device company, Joli Diagnostics Inc., that Tjota founded and named in memory of his mother.

Natalie Tjota, a second-year UB medical student, said she and her siblings chose to support the suite because of their father’s passion for education and training.

“A vital lesson our father taught us was the importance of teaching, learning and training. That is why we felt that the Advanced Procedures Suite was such a good fit,” they said, adding that they made the gift “in the hope it will carry out our dad’s legacy by supporting the education of medical students and giving them the tools and space to learn, perfect and apply skills to save lives and train future generations.”

Michael Cain, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School, thanked the family for its generosity, saying the Advanced Procedures Suite was a fitting choice for the Tjota family because it is one of the most innovative areas of the school.

“It is where the next generation of health care professionals will train, and where faculty, students and industry partners will collaborate,” Cain said. “We are honored to promote Amin Tjota’s legacy and to associate the Tjota family name with the Jacobs School. The Tjotas join a special community of individuals who, through philanthropic support, have made a direct, positive impact on the lives and health of others.”

Natalie Tjota and her siblings also hope UB medical students will make their own happy memories, like their parents did, while training in Buffalo.

“We have fond memories of spending time with our dad in Buffalo,” they said. “Everyone who met him always mentions how he was such a humble and charismatic man. We hope that the students who train in the Advanced Procedures Suite will walk away with stories and lessons of their own to tell, with the knowledge and desire to influence others on their own journeys.”

The Tjota family gift was made during Boldly Buffalo: The Campaign for UB, the largest fundraising campaign by a SUNY school and the largest in UB’s history. Through the campaign, UB looks to secure $650 million to transform student experiences, empower faculty research and discovery, and improve local and global communities.