Fresh Med School Start Sought
Feeling largely left out of deliberations, Saint Mary's Health Care directors want to see a broader and more public planning process on the medical school's move than what has occurred to date, a process that has mostly involved talks between MSU and Spectrum Health on an affiliation agreement.
The question comes down to formulating a collaborative plan among several key players to ensure that the expansion of medical education in Grand Rapids is done in ways that are needed, affordable and sustainable, and play into West Michigan's existing clinical and educational base.
"What is it we really want in a medical school as a community? We really haven't had that discussion," said David Baumgartner, m.d., vice president of medical affairs and director of medical education at Saint Mary's Health Care.
Saint Mary's Health Care's board of director last week adopted a position statement on MSU's proposal to relocate much of the
While supporting the concept and potential "overwhelmingly positive development for the community," Saint Mary's directors believe that a local medical school "can be successful and sustainable only if structured appropriately, built on a solid business model, organized around the existing strengths of the local health care and educational systems, and pursued in a truly open and collaborative fashion, both among all of the key parties in Grand Rapids … and between Michigan State University and the Grand Rapids community," states the position statement.
And in a Sept. 8 letter to Grand Rapid Mayor George Heartwell, Saint Mary's Health Care President and CEO Phil McCorkle said he's concluded that MSU's proposal "is neither financially viable nor well-matched with the strengths and long-term best interests of the
The position statement and McCorkle's letter makes public what many have been quietly asking in
Saint Mary's Health Care takes the position that discussions thus far have not explored whether the MSU College of Human Medicine is the right match for what
"If we had engaged in a more open type of discussion with
The position of Saint Mary's Health Care, which accommodates one-third of the
The completion of the study by Deloitte & Touche, originally expected by Labor Day, has been pushed back to mid-October. The study was commissioned by a loose-knit group of political, business and health-care leaders in Grand Rapids that Heartwell assembled following the decision in May by the MSU Board of Trustees to endorse a plan to develop a full, four-year medical school campus in Grand Rapids over the next decade.
Deloitte & Touche was to analyze MSU's conceptual proposal, the associated $309 million cost, and conduct an economic impact study. Grand Action Committee is paying for the study.
Sources indicate the study will show MSU's cost estimates are too low and that the cost of the move would actually be much higher.
Heartwell last week was unable to offer specifics on the costs the study will show, but said, "I believe we're going to see something higher than what MSU suggested, but until we see the report I don't know."
Beyond the costs, Heartwell anticipates the Deloitte & Touche report will show a potentially "huge" economic impact associated with the move.
"The numbers that we're going to see are going to blow our hair back," he said. "It'll have the potential to be enormous for the community."
The recession hit
Information technology and electronics, while strong locally, can't carry an economy like the medical field can, McPherson said. He pointed to the quality delivery of medical care already in place in Grand Rapids and the "twin of that," the Life Sciences Corridor, which also is picking up steam in terms of research and development.
"A medical school, especially if it is research-oriented, is a good bridge to that," he said.
West Michigan has good hospitals, good physician care and a strong educational base afforded by schools like
"What you don't have is the medical school. This is the kind of draw that will get you people from all over the world," he said.
McPherson said he was "constrained" in his remarks because he didn't want to say too much before the Deloitte & Touche feasibility study was made public.
But he did claim that
"And medical schools help recruit faculty and research (funding). We at
The MSU president reiterated that he's happy with the current medical school in
"I think we can take that next leap … here," he said.
MSU's proposal hinges on securing an affiliation agreement for the medical school with Spectrum Health, which wants to assure that such an alliance wouldn't add to the health system's costs.
Managing editor Tim Gortsema contributed to this story.