UPDATE: IU Medical School expansion plan gets go-ahead

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UPDATE: IU Medical School expansion plan gets go-ahead

 — With the stroke of a pen, local educational leaders took a significant step forward Friday in their efforts to expand medical education in the region.

Representatives of the Indiana University School of Medicine-Evansville, the University of Evansville, the University of Southern Indiana and Ivy Tech signed letters of intent to participate in a new interdisciplinary health science research and education campus. The signing ceremony took place at the Chamber of Commerce of Southwest Indiana.

The project has been referred to popularly as the “IU medical school project,” but in reality the project will include all four of the above-mentioned schools, multiple health science degree programs, and four regional hospitals. Plans also call for a 40,000-square-foot simulation center to be used for training, research and possibly product development work.

“When this health care campus is opened, it will be home to 1,600 to 2,000 health care students from all four universities,” said Steven Becker, director and associate dean of the Indiana University School of Medicine-Evansville.

Currently, IU’s school of medicine in Evansville is housed at USI. Until now it’s been a place where students could complete their first two years of medical school. With the expansion project, the school will become a full four-year medical school, to be located at a yet-undetermined site.

Speakers noted that the collaborative nature of the project is unusual.

“This project will be one of only a handful of like projects in the nation,” said Christy Gillenwater, the chamber of commerce’s president and chief executive officer.

“We have an opportunity to be a standout in the nation.”

Details on each school’s involvement in the project:

Ivy Tech will have the largest physical presence on the campus. Chancellor Dan Schenk said his school plans to move all of its existing health science and nursing programs to the new campus, which will allow the space needed for those programs to expand. Schenk said about 1,100 local Ivy Tech students are enrolled in health science studies, including nursing, medical assisting, surgical tech and paramedic programs. By 2020, these programs and possible new programs are expected to have an enrollment of 1,400, Schenk said.

USI plans to focus on graduate-level education and research at the new center. USI President Linda Bennett said the school expects to have more than 200 students taking courses at the new facility by 2020, in programs including master’s and doctoral-level programs in occupational therapy, a master’s-level program in health administration, a doctoral program in nursing practice and a health informatics research center. USI’s undergraduate nursing program will remain on the USI campus.

UE plans to launch a new physician assistant program at the new medical campus, said UE President Thomas Kazee. UE expects to have 60 physician assistant students, and more than 265 total health professions students, enrolled at the new center by 2020. Kazee said his school is also considering adding other programs at the new facility, including a doctoral program in physical therapy, a master of public health program, a master’s degree in nursing and a program where registered nurses can earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

IU is exploring the feasibility of including a dental clinic at the new campus, Becker said. This would be a place where IU School of Dentistry students could do on-site clinical rotations, and it would serve patients in need in the Evansville area.

A site for the project has not yet been selected. Next month, IU is expected to issue a request for proposals for possible locations.

IU’s board of trustees are expected to select a site at the board’s February or April board meeting, Becker said.

Groundbreaking is planned for summer 2015, and the campus is set to open in August 2017.

Source:  Evansville Courier and Press

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