The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) Monday, June 25, named central Wisconsin – which includes the communities of Stevens Point, Wausau and Marshfield – as one of two sites statewide it picked for the development of a medical school campus that will open in 2015.
MCW is launching the community-based medical education initiative to address the shortage of physicians and other health care providers in Wisconsin, especially in underserved rural and urban areas, said Peggy Sullivan, executive director of Centergy, the central Wisconsin alliance for economic development.
She said estimates indicate there will be a shortage of 2,000 physicians in Wisconsin over the next 10 to 15 years. “It is extremely important to engage physicians and students who want to be physicians into our communities and into our cultures in hopes that they make a decision to stay here in central Wisconsin,” said Sullivan.
Dr. John Raymond, MCW CEO and president, said these shortages are most acutely felt in rural communities, and to address this need MCW started the process in August of 2011 to find additional sites outside its Milwaukee campus. “We believe that our institution should make reasonable efforts to expand our role in the physician training needed across the whole health care continuum,” he said, noting that while central Wisconsin itself has a deep talent pool of physicians, the northern areas of the state its four health systems cover are underserved.
The central Wisconsin location, which he expects will open in the summer of 2015, will allow 25 students a year to begin and complete the entire medical training process on site.
Defining “on site” is more complicated, though, as he said this will be a regional effort that encompasses health care systems and colleges throughout central Wisconsin. “You have four outstanding health systems (Ministry Health Care, Aspirus Health System, Marshfield Clinic and Riverview Hospital) here and they need to work together,” said Raymond. “There is also very considerable strength from the technical colleges all the way to the four-year colleges here in the region that will be critical for us to make this happen.”
Anticipated technical college, community college and university partners include the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UW-SP), Mid-State Technical College, Northcentral Technical College, UW-Marathon College, UW-Marshfield/Wood County and Nicolet College.
Raymond said MCW will build a 5,000- to 6,000-square-foot teaching facility in one of the communities, but the primary focus will be to give students experience. “We really want the students to be out in the communities in all the hospital systems and clinics in the region, and we’re going to focus on keeping (the facility) footprint small to keep the costs down,” he said, noting it would also like to use existing simulation facilities at UW-SP and the technical colleges in the region.
The teaching facility site will be determined after MCW identifies the best two or three sites in the region, with a decision possibly coming in September and the very latest by the end of the year.
He said a typical start-up cost for a more traditional teaching school would be $100 to $150 million, which would be mainly for a facility itself, but MCW’s plan calls for spending $23 million to develop sites in both central Wisconsin and Green Bay, which is the other site it picked for development. It received a $4 million grant from the education component of its Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin endowment to jump-start the development phase. MCW will engage central Wisconsin area physician practices, county medical societies, local faculty and business leaders to obtain the additional funding.
MCW has identified a number of milestones that must be achieved before student recruitment will begin on the selected campuses. Those milestones are relevant to accreditation, funding, faculty recruitment and development, formalized agreements with local health care systems and academic institutions, MCW faculty approvals, and the creation of local residency programs.
Raymond said achieving those milestones shouldn’t be a problem. “The strengths of this community include strong health systems with outstanding physicians and a demonstrated commitment to serving underserved parts of the state, established programs for students, quality academic institutions with great scientific programming infrastructure, engagement and enthusiastic support from civic and business entities, and a robust pool of potential applicants,” he said. “We believe that all this can be accomplished easily with the talent and resources in this community.”
The site will bring seven to 10 jobs initially to the area, including a campus dean, but Raymond noted this number will grow over time. He said the campus will also act as a research enterprise, and with each federal grant it receives up to an additional five jobs could be created.
In addition to job creation, the local economy will retain 85 percent of the tuition dollars students will pay to attend the medical college. Tuition, Raymond said, is currently $45,000 per year for each student.
Stevens Point community leaders attending a press conference at the Central Wisconsin Airport in Mosinee where the announcement was made said they were excited about the opportunity MCW is bringing to the region. “This is a great opportunity, not just for central Wisconsin but the entire state as well,” said Michael Ostrowski, Stevens Point director of Planning and Community Development. “Having it right here in central Wisconsin is a great thing. This will mean a great deal for Stevens Point, regardless of where this is located. It is going to be huge economic impact, a huge draw for central Wisconsin as a whole. This is just another organization that will help draw people here.”
UW-SP Chancellor Bernie Patterson agreed. “This means so much not only to the university, but to our region,” he said. “This is an exciting day. It’s an opportunity to bring more students into the health care professions – that’s what part of our new strategic plan is aimed at, our partnership for thriving communities focusing on the rural part of the state, focusing on the Northwoods, focusing on nontraditional students, all part of the funnel with our educational partners – the technical schools and the UW colleges. It’s going to be a great opportunity for our students and our faculty and staff, and the community.”
Jeff Martin, Ministry Health Care central region chief executive officer and Ministry St. Michael’s Hospital president, said this will benefit Ministry. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for collaboration with the various health systems and the municipalities to provide a much needed resource to our communities – physicians,” he said. “This is a tremendous opportunity for us to find a source of physicians that will serve our patients over the long run. For the students to get the full array of experiences they need to be appropriately challenged, as physicians require multiple interactions across multiple sites. We believe that will occur by working closely together.”
Based on data from 2007 to 2012, a total of 191 central Wisconsin residents applied to medical school at MCW. On average, 625 Wisconsin residents apply annually to MCW’s medical education program.
“As a major provider of health care services in Wisconsin, we are excited about the opportunity to educate and train medical professionals in our communities,” said Dr. Michael Kryda, vice president of Medical Affairs for Ministry Health Care. “This new program will compliment the already long-established medical education programs within our system as we continue to address the need for additional physicians in the many communities we serve across the state.”
Gov. Scott Walker said he applauds MCW’s decision. “While addressing shortages of health care professionals will require many individual solutions, adding medical schools in northeast and central Wisconsin over the next several years is a terrific step toward meeting Wisconsin’s health care needs, particularly in less populated areas of our state,” he said. “I am especially appreciative of the Medical College’s inclusive process which included reaching out to inform and solicit input from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.”
State Rep. Louis J. Molepske Jr., D-Stevens Point, said he is excited by the decision. “Central Wisconsin has long been known for ensuring good access to high-quality health care provided by top-notch doctors, nurses and medical staff,” he said. “The presence of a MCW regional campus in central Wisconsin will continue that history, particularly with the establishment of a nursing program at UW-Stevens Point. This announcement will continue the strong health care education and industry sector in central Wisconsin.”