By: Carol Wersich
EVANSVILLE — Efforts to establish an expanded Indiana University School of Medicine-Evansville — one with its own facilities and campus in a still-to-be determined Southwestern Indiana location — tops current discussions in different circles across the Tri-State.
Some residents of the community are reminded of similar discussions dating back to the late 1960s, when the hot topic was a plan for creating, for the first time, collaboration in medical education between IU and a local college and possibly several other schools in the state.
The idea was to help shape the course of education for current and future doctors.
The plan soon garnered community support, led by the late Dr. Patrick John Valentine Corcoran, an internist considered the dean of Evansville doctors.
It hatched finally in 1972 when the IUSM-Evansville — created largely by Corcoran — opened in the University of Evansville McCurdy Alumni Memorial Union, with a class of five first-year medical students.
The then Indiana State University-Evansville (now University of Southern Indiana) also allotted classroom space on its campus for the budding program, and the operation ran admirably well in the split-campus arrangement.
A $1.1 million federal grant was awarded in support of the program and of ISUE’s nursing program.
Cathy Zimmermann, director of development for the IUSM-Evansville, credits Corcoran for being instrumental in acquiring many professionals in the region to help with the program’s vision of having students taught by practicing physicians in the community. She said a part of the vision was that the Southwestern Indiana region would become a leader in medical education: a goal that continues today.
In a report in the old Evansville Press, Corcoran said he saw the development of the center here as a gradual thing, with cooperative effort by UE and ISUE, the city’s hospitals and the Mead Johnson Research Center.
Since 1994, the program has been housed in the University of Southern Indiana Health Professions Building, where students take courses for two years and then return to IU upstate to complete their four-year program.
Hospitals in Jasper, Ind., and Owensboro, Ky., along with St. Mary’s and Deaconess, joined forces in helping with the program.
Corcoran chose to leave his center-director position in 1982, but continued in a national leadership role in medical education, as chairman of the American Medical Association Council for Medical Education and as chairman of the national Accreditation Council on Continuing Medical Education.
Corcoran said in The Press account that he considered his career a great privilege.
“I love the practice of medicine. I can’t think of anything more rewarding.”
In announcing his leaving, he said he wanted to move to new challenges … develop other opportunities. “A person has to stay challenged, you know?”
He also said he planned to retain his position as a faculty member and professor at the medical education center.
“I don’t plan to quit teaching.”
Corcoran also served as medical education director at the old Welborn Baptist Hospital.
In May 1983, The Press recognized Corcoran with its Distiguished Community Service Award for “exemplary leadership” in the community, from a practicing physician to first director of the IUSM-Evansville Center.
He was also recognized for “outstanding contributions” in calling to the attention of other doctors and treatment practitioners the seriousness of alcoholism in the community.
The Indiana University School of Medicine and its eight regional branches, including Evansville, the school IU’s largest school.