Carilion Clinics $100 million overhaul took another turn last week when the seven-hospital Virginia system unveiled plans to open a medical school by 2010.
The school, a joint venture between Roanoke-based Carilion and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, will cost an estimated $30 million to $50 million to launch and will admit 40 students per year into a five-year program in Roanoke with an emphasis on research training, officials said when announcing the proposal Jan. 3.
The move comes as other states also work to beef up medical education, including California, Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Officials representing the planned medical school in Virginia said they will ask the state Legislature for $10 million to $20 million to cover capital costs and the remaining startup costs will be jointly financed with reserves.
Carilions five-year reorganizationwhich hinges on expanding its specialty and research traininghas drawn fire from private-practice doctors in southwest Virginia who have questioned its cost and criticized the clinic for alienating independent doctors and threatening to monopolize the market (Nov. 27, 2006, p. 14).
The medical school plans did not reduce the opposition to Carilions costly conversion, which were unveiled in June. At that time, Carilion launched an effort to convert its operation to a physician-led clinic from a health system, which included plans to expand its Roanoke campus; hire specialists and subspecialists; and create a research partnership with Virginia Tech (June 26, 2006, p. 6).
We really dont see the reason for the medical school, said Geoff Harter, president of the Coalition for Responsible Healthcare, a not-for-profit group of doctors critical of Carilions plans, and a physician with Roanoke Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic. Medical students who graduate with additional research training seem unlikely to practice in high-demand communities, such as underserved rural or urban areas. He is also skeptical that Carilions proposed school will be able to compete with established research universities for highly sought after research dollars.
Physicians critical of the conversion met recently with Carilion executives and are seeking a written guarantee the clinic wont recruit and hire specialists to compete with existing private practices, said Jesse Davidson, a Roanoke surgeon and coalition member.
Ed Murphy, Carilions president and chief executive officer, said the medical school fits into the not-for-profit clinics plans to diversify its specialties and expand its research, and it builds on Carilions existing medical education program. Forty third-year students from the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville, one of the states four medical schools, train in Carilion hospitals, Murphy said. The clinic is in talks with the school about how Carilions plans may affect training for those students, he said.
The Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine, the states only osteopathic medical school, opened in 2003 in Blacksburg, roughly 40 miles from Roanoke, the site of Carilion and Virginia Techs proposed school.
Murphy and Charles Steger, president of Virginia Tech, said a fifth medical school in the state would provide much-needed doctors in the years ahead. U.S. demand for physicians, expected to create a shortage in coming years, has spurred calls from the American Association of Medical Colleges for new or expanded medical schools to boost U.S. enrollment by 30%.
Virginia isnt the only state that may see medical education capacity expand, with expansions or new schools planned in at least four states.
Last week, the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia and four-hospital Virtua Health in Marlton, N.J., unveiled a new partnership, the first time the university, founded in 1821 as the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, has teamed up with a regional healthcare organization.
This exciting partnership provides an opportunity for new dimensions in the education of pharmacists and healthcare professionals, said Philip Gerbino, president of University of the Sciences, in a statement.
Also, the University of California at Riverside won preliminary approval for a medical school from the universitys Board of Regents in November. Michigan State University and Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Spectrum Health, announced plans for a medical school there in April 2006. And two Florida medical schools are under development.