The decision whether to create a school of medicine on the Urbana campus may hinge on a report from U. of I. President Bob Easter.
At its Nov. 3 meeting, the U. of I. Board of Trustees' health care committee forwarded a draft resolution to the board that would have Easter offer a recommendation on what form an engineering-based medical college should take.
So far, two proposals have been presented - one from Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise to create a fully autonomous, engineering-based medical school in partnership with Carle Health System, and an alternate plan that UIC campus leaders say is less expensive and serves a larger constituency.
The board is expected to consider the proposed resolution, which calls for an Easter recommendation on or before its Nov. 13 meeting.
"There are some real questions about how to move forward," Easter said. "They are questions we need to grapple with."
If the resolution passes, Easter would be tasked with preparing a report that includes a description of the university's current College of Medicine structure, how each plan will affect that structure, the challenges behind both plans, data showing how other research universities have approached the topic, and a recommendation on how to proceed.
"One way or another, we're going to involve engineering and medicine," said Trustee Patrick J. Fitzgerald. "The question is how to do it the best way."
It is the second time Wise has given a proposal presentation to the University Healthcare System committee. After the September presentation, committee members instructed her to proceed with the proposal but to return with a more-detailed business plan.
Wise, traveling overseas, narrated a PowerPoint presentation of the business plan by phone at Monday's meeting. The plan covers many of the issues involving the creation of the medical school, including budgeting and structure. If approved, it could start accepting students by 2017.
"This is not a retrofit," Wise said. "This is not an add-on to another program. This is designed from the bottom up, and we have the pieces. We are uniquely positioned to address one of society's greatest problems."
Expenses for the start-up phase, covering the first three years of a 10-year plan, are estimated to be just over $37 million. They include infrastructure and other start-up costs, as well as a 10 percent contingency for all expenses figured in. It would not require any general revenue funds from the state, Wise said.
Carle would provide $100 million over the first 10 years, an additional $1.5 million annual contribution extending beyond that, and $34.5 million for the start-up costs. The plan predicts receipts of $1.2 million from tuition, $5.6 million from research funding, $1.7 million from the clinical enterprise, and $1.5 million from philanthropy and other income. The plan also calls for fundraising of $135 million in the first eight years.
"We believe that these fundraising goals are highly achievable," she said, and any accreditation for the college would require the presentation of a sound business plan.
By 2024-25, the annual budget, also with a 10 percent contingency figured in, is predicted to be about $35 million, while revenue is predicted to be $34 million. The cumulative budget for the plan is always positive due in large part to the Carle contributions. The cumulative surplus is estimated to be approximately $10 million by the 10th year.
Estimates were prepared by Tripp Umbach, a consulting firm. According to their report, the new college could have a $1 billion impact on the state by 2035.
As for governance, the college of medicine would operate as a U. of I. college and be bound by university statutes. A joint liaison committee would assist the provost and the chief medical officer of Carle with oversight of the college.
A faculty-led executive committee would serve in an advisory capacity, and the dean of the new medical college would hold a dual title of dean and Carle chief academic officer.
Serving just 25 students at the start with plans to grow to 50, the college would have its own curriculum and eventually employ 23 new faculty members, three of them physicians and the rest science-centered. Up to 50 Carle physicians would hold partial appointments at the college.
Wise said the new system would not affect current academic arrangements with UIC, and UIC would benefit in a multitude of ways under the new partnership.
"It will have a ripple effect," Wise said. "The college will grow and the wider community will grow."
Dimitri T. Azar, the dean of UIC's College of Medicine, offered an alternative to Wise's plan that he said is less expensive and more impactful.
Under the UIC proposal, engineering still would be integrated into the curriculum, but it would be delivered through an engineering-medical track under the current College of Medicine model, which has campuses in Rockford and Peoria and also serves Urbana students.
"It will combine the aspirations of UIC and (Urbana)," Azar said.
He said the benefits of the Urbana proposal were mostly limited to Urbana and "is not the best way I would spend my money."
Wise disagreed with Azar's assessment that her plan would provide little benefit to the UIC campus, and noted funding sources for the alternate plan have not been provided.