Lansing Will Fight For Med School

February 20, 2004
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EAST LANSING — Political and business leaders are marshalling forces to keep Michigan State University from possibly moving its medical school to Grand Rapids and from pursuing growth elsewhere at a cost to the Lansing area.

While the complete relocation is only one scenario as MSU weighs increasing the College of Human Medicine’s presence in Grand Rapids, the coalition worries that expansion elsewhere means the medical school won’t grow in the Lansing area.

And a lack of growth would mean problems for health-care providers in the Lansing area that rely on medical residents, support and resources from the medical school to serve a growing and aging patient population, particularly the uninsured and underinsured.

“If we’re only looking at maintaining the status quo, then we’re looking at a declining ability to deliver health-care services in the Lansing area,” East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows said.

“That growth (elsewhere) provides us a great deal of concern,” Meadows said. “If it was just an expansion you probably wouldn’t hear a word from us. We don’t want a net loss and we want to see health-care services in the area continue to grow — and to do that we need a medical school.”

Meadows and his Lansing counterpart, Tony Benavides, the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce and others want to keep the College of Human Medicine growing its role locally, even as MSU’s role in Grand Rapids grows.

The coalition has no objections to MSU expanding medical education in Grand Rapids, as long as the medical school continues to grow locally. Nor do members see the issue as coming down to Lansing vs. Grand Rapids.

“Grand Rapids is not the enemy,” Meadows said.

After years of informal talks with health-care leaders in Grand Rapids, MSU President Peter McPherson has accelerated an assessment into increasing the presence of the College of Human Medicine in Grand Rapids — including the medical school’s relocation. Media reports from Lansing indicate a decision could come as early as May.

Luring MSU to examine a greater role in Grand Rapids is a far broader and stronger clinical, research and education base that includes teaching hospitals Spectrum Health and Saint Mary’s Mercy Medical Center, and the Van Andel Institute, as well as a highly cooperative atmosphere between health-care providers and a generous philanthropic community, all of which combine to offer an attractive support structure for the College of Human Medicine.

The coalition of Lansing political and business leaders has retained a health-care consulting firm, Health Management Associates, to examine the potential impacts of the College of Human Medicine’s possible relocation and to develop a proposal to convince MSU not to relocate the medical school and to grow it locally instead.

“We want to do what we can to have them grow. Our position is they don’t have to leave the area for them to grow,” Meadows said. “I can see where the attraction is (in Grand Rapids) and we’re going to try to beat it. We’re going to bid for the prize.”

MSU’s College of Human Medicine presently sponsors 54 medical residents who receive their third and fourth years of clinical training at Spectrum Health and Saint Mary’s Mercy Medical Center. Among the potential areas to expand in Grand Rapids is offering first- and second-year classroom courses locally.

In his recent State of the University address, McPherson said increasing the medical school’s presence in Grand Rapids, including examining a possible relocation, is something the university must pursue.

“It is important to emphasize that medical education is a central part of Michigan State, not only in East Lansing but around the state,” he said. “To be sure, it is our expectation — yes, our mandate — to explore how medical colleges can better serve the state of Michigan.”               

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