A West Michigan Med School

January 6, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — Thanks to the efforts of a group of community leaders who’ve come to be known simply as  “the stakeholders,” Grand Rapids will become home to the new Michigan State University West Michigan Medical School, which will welcome its first students in 2008 and be fully operational as an accredited four-year medical school in early 2010.

The new medical school announced last fall will enhance health care options, economic activity and medical education in the region and will complement the research component of the Van Andel Institute.

From both an economic development and marketing standpoint, the collaboration between VAI, MSU, the Life Sciences Corridor and the hospitals has tremendous value in moving the region forward in a totally new direction and creating very different jobs, said Birgit Klohs, president of The Right Place Inc.

“The intellectual capital you attract with a med school and the commercialization opportunities that come out of it will completely transform our region and our state over the next 10 to 15 years,” she said. 

The stakeholder group spent more than a year pondering the feasibility of establishing a medical school in Grand Rapids as part of a strategy to build a stronger biomedical and life sciences environment in the region and grow its economy.

Stakeholders are reviewing several site options, but aren’t expected to finalize a site selection for another month or so, said Denise Holmes, assistant dean of government relations and outreach for MSU’s College of Human Medicine. She said all the sites are in the vicinity of downtown.

The stakeholder group is comprised of representatives of 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. Representatives from each of those organizations comprise the nominees for the Newsmaker of the Year award. The group formed in the fall of 2004 following a Deloitte Consulting report on the potential economic impact of expanding MSU’s College of Human Medicine to West Michigan.

The goal all along has been to create a financially self-sustaining, state-of-the art, four-year accredited medical school that would focus on medical programs in research and sub-specialty clinical practice.

“West Michigan has a proven willingness to invest in the future,” VAI Chairman David Van Andel remarked upon announcing the med school plan. “We have a vision for economic growth and for creating a new sector in the economy, with particular focus on the life sciences.”

Having the research environment of the VAI already in place will give MSU med students a much more research-intensive environment, as well as experiences in specialty and subspecialty care. According to plans, they will have a molecular-, genetic-, futuristic-focused program built on research.

“Over these months we’ve created a shared vision, we’ve had a shared assessment of our assets, and a shared sense of confidence in one another,” said MSU President Lou Anna Simon of the year-long effort.

“We have a shared sense that this is right for MSU, all the partners, the state of Michigan and West Michigan. We are confident that we will celebrate the success of this partnership in a way that it will become the model for 21st century medical education.”

The med school also is likely to attract new research dollars. The school is expected to spend $25 million in annual research, and coupled with research expenditures at the VAI and area hospitals, that will total nearly $100 million in annual research in West Michigan. Collectively, all that research has the potential to attract large grants from the National Institutes for Health.    

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