Med School Remains Under Discussion

August 12, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Michigan State University Board of Trustees held a reception Wednesday to meet and greet key players in what's now being touted as Grand Rapids' "Medical Mile."

Board Chairman David Porteous told those gathered for the reception at Meijer Gardens that MSU is excited about the possibility of bringing major portions of its College of Human Medicine to Grand Rapids and that the university looks forward to deepening its relationship with the west side of the state.

"The industry you have and the community spirit you have is going to make our institution even better," he remarked.

MSU President Lou Anna Simon noted that in the seven months since she assumed leadership of MSU, she has made 17 trips to the West Michigan area.

"That to me is a symbol of the kind of commitment we have to making sure a partnership works."

She said partners in the MSU Medical School Development Team are looking at opportunities that could make both Grand Rapids and East Lansing better places to live and work.

The development team includes Grand Action, Grand Valley State University, Michigan State University, The Right Place Inc., Saint Mary's Health Care, Spectrum Health and the Van Andel Institute.

Simon told the Business Journal on her visit here in March that primary care would remain the focus of MSU's undergraduate medical education, which is all about the training of doctors. But advance education into specialty and subspecialty care has to be done in a research environment where people are doing cutting-edge work, and that's where the Van Andel Institute would come in.

Having the research environment of the VAI already in place would give MSU's third- and fourth-year med students a much more research-intensive environment, as well as experiences in specialty and subspecialty care that currently they might not otherwise have, she said.

"What will happen with the Grand Rapids-based students starting medical school is that they're going to have a molecular-, genetic-, futuristic-focused program built on research."

Simon reiterated Wednesday that she's confident the med school initiative here will go forward and still hopes that a deal can be brokered before the end of the year.

The university also announced last week that the "Campaign for MSU" fundraising project it kicked off three years ago just surpassed the $1 billion mark, and that 95 percent of the funds are earmarked for specific projects designated by donors. The university's goal is to reach $1.2 billion by 2007.

Simon said it's possible some of those funds could go to the med school initiative in Grand Rapids if donors so specify, but she said MSU already has a fundraising plan in place for that effort, though it has yet to be initiated.

A sub-goal of Campaign for MSU is to add $450 million to MSU's endowment to provide income in perpetuity. Thus far, $274.5 million has been raised for endowment.    

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