Board of Trustees considers proposal to house medical school in Bishop-Lehr

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The University of Northern Colorado is looking into expanding its curriculum and putting to use the former laboratory school-turned-storage building, Bishop-Lehr Hall. Operated under the Colorado-based healthcare provider, Salud LLC, UNC is projected to open the Colorado College of Osteopathic Medicine, which would educate and train future physicians and others in the health profession, in 2020.

The CEO of Salud LLC, David Mohr, and David Figuli, who has experience in launching medical schools as well as working with UNC in the past, proposed the idea to the Board of Trustees on Friday. The team behind the college proposal is still seeking accreditation and cannot recruit students quite yet.

“It’s a vision, at this point, assuredly,” Figuli said. “It’s one that we plagiarized from, though, from President Norton. So, I give credit to Kay for inspiring this vision for us.”

There is a projected shortage of physicians, with a demand of 125,000 physicians needed by 2030. As education and training in this field takes nearly a decade, the need for physicians is ever-growing. Some factors of this rising need are linked to the U.S. population growing and aging, government programs encouraging access to medicine and participation in insurance markets. Mohr said that there is a significant need for physicians in rural areas. He said that 40 percent of future physicians tend to stay in the region in which they trained. Meaning that, as Greeley is a rural area, creating a medical school at UNC would address this growing concern.

The college is anticipated to provide new programs in addition to incorporating existing health science programs. A master’s degree program would be available to mimic the first two years of medical school for students that still want to pursue the medical profession but did not initially get into medical school. The college would provide the opportunity of joint-research with existing health science and nursing programs already existing programs at UNC. Those enrolled in UNC health science programs would also benefit from preferred enrollment in the college.

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The college would be privately funded, partnering with UNC to use the campus as a site for the medical school. The total cost of getting the college established by the end of the decade would be $110 million. The process of accreditation would require gathering enough money to ensure that, in the first five years of the school operating, students would not be financially hurt or risk not receiving their degree.  The reserve of funds would cost $40 million. The major renovations needed to turn Bishop-Lehr Hall into a medical facility would cost an estimated $35 million. Hiring faculty as well as operating the facility would cost an additional $35 million.

The accrediting agency, The American Osteopathic Association’s Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation, would be overseeing the accreditation of the school. According to Mohr, it has accredited 34 schools, with at least four approved in the last five years. The agency dates to the 1800s. Mohr said the agency is progressive and active in opening new medical schools while applying a strict and formulaic approach for approval to ensure the success of the school.

The application process began in 2017. In 2018-2019, the proposal reached candidacy as the teams works to fulfill its accreditation. In 2019 until the start of fall semester of 2020, the college will reach pre-accreditation status. At that point, recruitment of students would begin, and Bishop-Lehr would be undergoing renovation. They expect the college to have 150 students per class, with 600 total. Bishop-Lehr is a large enough facility to accommodate this size.

The 120,000 square foot building would be renovated to have labs and a simulation center that will provide students practice in an emergency room or hospital scenario.

“Were going to have to find a new place for storage, but that’s a good problem to have,” Mohr said. “And being able to take that building and repurpose it and create a hub for the health sciences on the university’s campus is something we’re really excited about. It will be a tangible, visual reminder of the partnership that we are putting together.”

 

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