As two branches of the University of Illinois continued to wrangle Monday over which would get a new type of medical college, discussions revealed that Illinois may be in competition with universities from several other states racing to create the concept of a medical/engineering college hybrid.
Phyllis Wise, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign chancellor, warned that time was of the essence if Illinois wants to be the first to establish such a college. She said other schools interested in doing the same include Stanford University, University of California Riverside, University of California San Diego, University of Michigan and the new University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School, scheduled to open in 2016.
Representatives from the University of Illinois' Urbana-Champaign and Chicago campuses made their pitches Monday to the university healthcare system committee of the U of I's board of trustees seeking to make their sites the location of a new engineering-focused medical school.
“This is not a retrofit, this is not an add-on to an existing enterprise,” Wise said in introducing her plan (PDF) to start a new college that would open in 2017 with a class of 25 students.
Dr. Dimitri Azar, dean of the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago, talked about creating a program (PDF) that would establish an Illinois Translational BioEngineering Institute at his school and create a “convergence of medicine with other life sciences, engineering, computational, physical, chemical and social sciences.”
Azar noted that Wise's plan “to invest $235 million to train 25 students” may not be the best use of university money, but added that he was “willing to consider other win-win alternatives.”
The full board is expected to discuss the proposals Nov. 13 and possibly vote to move ahead with a project. Another possible scenario involves having University President Robert Easter investigate the issue, evaluate both proposals and then make a recommendation to the board for consideration in March.
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