The University of Illinois board of trustees voted unanimously Thursday to establish an engineering-based medical college at its Urbana-Champaign campus in partnership with the Carle Foundation, an Urbana-based integrated-care network.
University of Illinois President Robert Easter endorsed the concept Wednesday, choosing it over a counterproposal for a “translational bioengineering institute” based in Chicago.
“Today, we have been given the opportunity to change the world,” U of I Chancellor Phyllis Wise said in a release. “We are the first to chart this new path in medical education, and we are excited by the challenge.”
U of I officials claim the new college will be the first of its kind, but engineering-medical school collaborations are not new. Examples include the Harvard-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Health Sciences and Technology program launched in 1970, and the University of Michigan's Department of Biomedical Engineering, a joint program between its engineering college and its medical school, which started in 2012.
The new University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School, scheduled to open in 2016, plans to collaborate with numerous campus institutions, including its schools of engineering, business, communication, education, law, nursing, pharmacy and social work.
But Dr. James Leonard, president and CEO of the Carle Foundation, told Modern Healthcare in October that, “Nobody in the world has a medical campus that begins and ends with engineering,” which is the goal of the new Urbana-Champaign college.
Carle has pledged $100 million toward the effort, including $34.5 million to cover start-up costs. In addition to the foundation's donation and tuition, the new institution will be financed through corporate investments and private philanthropy. The new college aims to avoid seeking state funding or diverting university funds from other U of I departments.
Next steps for the college include recruiting a dean and applying for accreditation from the Illinois Board of Higher Education and the national Liaison Committee on Medical Education.
Former U of I Board Chairman Christopher Kennedy told Modern Healthcare in December that several votes will be taken following concept approval, including decisions on budget, construction and other issues. But the university board plans to look beyond student enrollment and faculty recruitment.
“I think we're looking at societal impact,” Kennedy said, citing how medical-school and research-institution collaborations have revitalized their home cities. His examples included the University of Washington in Seattle, Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., and Washington University in St. Louis.
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