By Braley Dodson, Provo Daily Herald, 11/21/17
“The presence of a medical school here in Utah, another one, will impact the entire western United States and it will be another solution to the shortage of physicians that has already been identified,” said Richard Nielsen, the vice president of Wasatch Educational.
An architect hasn’t yet been hired for the project but Wasatch Educational has already begun the search for the school’s founding dean.
The school is named after the Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation, which has put $50 million toward the project.
One in five medical students in the United States are training to be osteopathic physicians, according to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. Physicians trained in the field address patients with a whole-body approach.
The school will be under Wasatch Educational and will be affiliated with the Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions in Provo. The school will enroll 150 students a year for its first four years and then will have 175 students a year afterward. It’s anticipated the school will graduate more than 8,750 students in its first 50 years of operation.
Nielsen said the Noorda College of Osteopathic Medicine will be transformational and innovating, using the latest technology and teaching students preventative care.
“We anticipate this will be a world-class medical school,” he said.
A few sites in Utah County have been considered for the school, with the preferred location located on 24 acres of the northwestern part of the East Bay Golf Course, pending approval from the Provo Municipal Council. The school is also looking to use the southwestern wedge of the course at least 15 years from now. The proposal includes relocating the Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions next to the medical school in 2024.
The building’s plan includes having green space in and around the campus. Nielsen, who visited medical schools in seven states, said Wasatch Educational is leaning towards a traditional-style building.
“We want it to blend in with the existing architecture of Provo,” he said.
If the Provo proposal is approved, a groundbreaking will take place in the March of 2019 and the project will be completed in January of 2021, at which point the school will begin receiving student applications.
The Noorda College of Osteopathic Medicine will generate more than $62 million in construction business, provide more than 200 construction jobs and will bring more than 121 medical school jobs to Utah County, according to an independent economic impact study from Bonneville Research cited in a press release about the announcement.
The process of bringing a medical school to Utah County started seven years ago with a feasibility study and started to become a reality about three years ago.
The school will receive provisional accreditation through the American Osteopathic Association Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation.
The creation of the school is in response to a shortage of medical professionals both in Utah and across the nation. The state needs 375 new physicians each year to meet the state’s need, according to the Utah Medical Association Council.
Nielsen said the idea is that it’s easier to educate students locally as opposed to recruiting them after they graduate from medical schools elsewhere.
The majority of osteopathic school graduates end up practicing in primary care.
A partnership between the school and a hospital could come after a dean is appointed.