A unique proposal for a medical school at Arizona State University that would educate only aspiring primary-care providers has run into stiff opposition.
ASU president Lattie Coor has proposed a partnership with 473-bed Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix for the ASU/Maricopa Health Sciences Center. The center would emphasize training "healthcare teams," including primary-care physicians, physicians' assistants, nurses and other professionals.
"We're not talking about training specialists, but training very different types of physicians," said Gene Schneller, professor of health administration policy at Arizona State University, located in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe. "It's nice to be unconstrained by tradition."
With a proposed annual budget of $10.1 million, the ASU/Maricopa Health Sciences Center would be financed with state tax dollars.
The Arizona Board of Regents last week voted 5-3 to delay a decision on the ASU medical school after strong opposition came from supporters of Arizona's only medical school at University of Arizona in Tucson. Educators there said they can handle the training of aspiring primary-care physicians. Last year, the school graduated 80 medical doctors, and 51% went into primary care, officials said.
Mr. Schneller said financial and political support from the Phoenix community may keep the proposal alive because ASU would recruit 50% of its students from minority populations and medically underserved areas.
Arizona's Native American community pledged $5 million, through casino revenue from the Fort McDowell-Apache Indian Community, and the partnership with Maricopa Medical Center would amount to a clinical faculty "commitment of $10 million" Mr. Schneller said.
Currently, 126 American medical schools are accredited.
Critics have lambasted the ASU medical school idea. "To blame our training programs because some of our fellow citizens may not receive medical care is like saying that our roads and bridges are in a state of disrepair because of our colleges of engineering or that our juvenile justice system is flawed due to the training programs in our colleges of law," wrote Merlin K. Du Vall, former vice president for medical affairs at Samaritan Health Service, a not-for-profit hospital system, in a guest column in The Arizona Republic.
But Mr. Schneller said Arizona has room for two medical schools because studies show 80% of the state's physicians are retiring or leaving their practices by the year 2020.