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  • Senators asked to show support for new medical school

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  • On Feb. 2, the Senate Executive Committee placed the issue on the Feb. 9 senate agenda after receiving a unanimous final recommendation from the Educational Policy Committee that the proposal proceed.

    The committee had deliberated on detailed reports on the financing, operation and efficacy of an Urbana-based school of medicine/clinical partnership with Carle Health, which was submitted by Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise near the end of the fall semester.

    "We spent a number of sessions talking about this proposal," said Gay Miller, the Education Policy Committee chair and a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

    Miller said the committee suggested numerous revisions that appear in the final document, and received input from the senate's University Statutes and Senate Procedures Committee, and its Budget Committees, all of which were supportive. All of the campus's deans also have endorsed the proposal.


    Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise reflects on the impact that engineering-based medicine will have on the world for decades to come.

    At the Feb. 2 meeting, Neal Cohen, a professor of psychology and of neuroscience, and the director of the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences initiative, and Rhit Bhargave, a professor of bioengineering, both spoke to the potential benefits of the college.

    The senate's recommendation will be sent on to the U. of I. Board of Trustees, which is awaiting the advice of U. of I. President Bob Easter. He is considering the paradigm-shifting medical school approach at a new Urbana-based college proposal and a proposal to modify curricula at the UIC College of Medicine.

    A positive endorsement from the campus, the president and the board of trustees could seal the deal for Urbana and send campus planners into a frenzied next steps process that includes a search for a dean, recruitment of faculty, and the development of the new college's bylaws and curricula, as well as a host of other issues related to accreditation and operation.

    "This makes it really urgent for us to discuss," said SEC Chairman Roy Campbell, a professor of computer science. "We want to make sure the senate is looking at everything."

    In addition to the committee's report and Wise's extensive proposal, senators attending the Feb. 9 meeting will have the opportunity to ask questions of many of the people involved in the medical school effort.

    The panel will include high-ranking campus supporters and university experts who have studied the proposal in detail, and representatives of Carle Health.

    Carle has pledged $100 million in the first 10 years and an additional $1.5 million annual contribution extending beyond that.

    The university's plan predicts annual 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," Wise said at an SEC meeting last year.

    The cumulative budget for the plan is always positive, largely as a result of the Carle contributions. The cumulative surplus is estimated to be approximately $10 million by the 10th year.

    Expenses for the start-up phase, covering the first three years of a 10-year plan, are estimated to be a little more than $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, and there would be no immediate building-related needs.

    Estimates were prepared by Tripp Umbach, a consulting firm. According to their report, the new college could have a $1 billion economic impact on the state by 2035.

    The school would at first accommodate 25 students each year. A curriculum would be developed to combine a traditional doctor's training and a focus on engineering and Big Data.

    The result would be engineers who are trained as clinicians and immersed in the basic health sciences. They would become not only medical specialists, but physician-scientists looking to bridge the gap between physician and patient with groundbreaking discoveries that lead to new medical devices and procedures.

    Wise has said the new college would not compete financially or academically with the UIC College of Medicine, which offers degree programs in Peoria, Rockford, Springfield and Urbana. She said the Urbana school would depend on public and private donations, commercial revenue, tuition, clinical revenue and indirect cost recovery.

    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 to the dean, and the dean of the new medical college would hold a dual title of dean and Carle chief academic officer.

    With plans to gradually grow to 50 students, the college would have its own curriculum and could eventually employ 23 new faculty members, three of them physicians and the rest science- and engineering-related. 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. She said the Urbana campus would benefit as well through interdisciplinary collaborative opportunities with the medical school, which is why there has been such widespread support among the college deans.

    "It will have a ripple effect," Wise said. "The college will grow and the wider community will grow."

    Ilesanmi Adesida, Urbana provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, told members of the SEC Feb. 2 that Easter's recommendation will hinge on what proposal leverages the most benefit for the university.

    "The critical element is looking at the benefits to society," Adesida said.

    He said the chancellor's proposal was groundbreaking.

    "Doctors need to be trained in a different way," he said. "Nobody is doing this right now. We have the ability to lead in the medicine of the future. We want to bring this together all in one package that leads us for the next 50 years. It's something the campus should believe in."