Med School Is Desired Economic Booster

August 15, 2005
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The Michigan State University Board of Trustees "retreat" meeting in Grand Rapids last week gave those representatives an opportunity to provide new assurances to their Grand Rapids partners in the mission to move at least a portion of the school's College of Human Medicine here. And if the turnout at a brief cocktail reception of almost 100 percent of the potential partners for such a move is any indication, the plan has "legs."

MSU President Lou Anna Simon said she is optimistic that the planning efforts of no less than four distinct groups will come together by year's end.

The vast expanse of potential will domino well beyond

Michigan Street
hill. Those involved in the process now reference the Medical Mile, which encompasses Saint Mary's Health Care campus and other health-care businesses between the hill and Saints. For purposes of recruitment, the phrase also provides a better perception of the expansiveness of the network.

Simon was able to announce that MSU surpassed $1 billion in its Campaign for MSU, an achievement reached by only two other public universities: UC-Berkeley and Purdue. Having assuaged alumni with funding earmarked for specific programs also gives Simon and trustees a chance to further the fundraising specifically for the medical school transfer.

Comments from the Grand Rapids partners leading key segments of the plan to initiate the move also were largely positive, including those that might integrate the physician and research community with the MSU College of Human Medicine faculty.

The emerging plan looks little like the first initiative outlined, progressing toward research and commercial applications as well as the joint desire for "development of one of the most respected medical programs in the United States, designed for the challenges of the 21st century" and "targeted research programs that are at the forefront of basic biomedical science," as set out in the November 2004 Grand Action Committee study conducted by Deloitte Consulting LLP.

That study also notes a $1.57 billion economic impact in Kent and Ottawa counties over the first 10 years of the med school startup — an increase in personal income of nearly $1 billion — and more than 2,800 new jobs.

The Right Place Inc. President Birgit Klohs has said repeatedly, "Health sciences … will be one of the key drivers in job growth for the next 10 to 15 years. A medical school would push that growth exponentially forward."

One hopes the expanded development timeline has provided patient thoroughness rather than stalling, and those involved have indicated some assurances of the former. This community is certainly due such economic boosters.

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