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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Ariz. welcomes medical school to Phoenix

    The UA College of Medicine campus in downtown Phoenix is now “”open for business”” and will boost the state’s economy and supply Arizona’s rapidly increasing population with more physicians, said President Robert Shelton at the college’s opening ceremony yesterday.

    Gov. Janet Napolitano said the medical school, which will begin classes with its first full four-year class in July, will hopefully graduate as many as 150 medical students each year.

    Arizona Board of Regents President Robert Bulla said the medical school will hopefully alleviate the shortage of doctors in Arizona, which ranks 45th in the nation for physicians per capita, despite being one of the fastest-growing states in America.

    “”By linking arms with ASU, we are setting into motion an effort unique in America,”” said Shelton, referring to the combination of the medical school and cutting-edge research facilities at the new site.

    Governor Janet Napolitano said the collaborative efforts of Arizona State University and the UA will not only produce high-quality physicians but also provide cutting-edge and personalized health care for the state’s growing population.

    “”We are not just creating a medical school. … We are creating a complete biomedical research facility,”” Napolitano said.

    The Phoenix Biomedical Campus now includes the UA College of Medicine, the

    Translational Genomics Research Institute and ASU’s Department of Bioinformatics.

    The Arizona Biomedical Collaborative and the UA College of Pharmacy are also on the horizon, officials said.

    In addition to better health care, the new facilities will feed hundreds of millions of dollars into the state’s economy and provide thousands of new jobs, said Arizona House Minority Leader Phil Lopes.

    A study by Tripp Umbach Healthcare Consulting Inc. said that the campus could generate as much as $2.1 billion annually and provide more than 20,000 new jobs.

    Bulla added that the project was finished “”on time and on budget.”” The Arizona Legislature allocated $7 million to bring the program to Phoenix.ÿ

    Educators at the UA, ASU and Northern Arizona University worked with Napolitano and Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon to move the idea of a collaborative medical school out of the basement and into downtown Phoenix in just over two years.

    The short length of time in which the project went from conception to completion will set a precedent for how other states develop their health care institutions, said UA College of Medicine Dean Keith Joiner.

    “”We are really under a microscope and in the limelight at the same time,”” Joiner said.

    Arizona’s accomplishments are under scrutiny because at least five other states are following their lead, Joiner said.

    Regent Gary Stuart said ASU was reasonably skeptical about the venture at first, but the risk of failure involved was proportional to the benefits of success.

    “”We have beaten back conventional wisdom so far,”” Shelton added.

    Former President Peter Likins said the original College of Medicine faced the same initial challenges, but now it thrives.

    ASU President Michael Crow said that although the state is grossly underserved in the area of health care at the moment, he was impressed with what he called “”the Arizona way.””

    “”The ability to conceptualize, design and build all at the same time … (is) the epitome of utilitarianism,”” Crow said.

    He said this approach gives Arizona the edge over other states that take longer to implement changes.

    “”Whether (the medical school) is connected to university … is irrelevant. What’s relevant is the product,”” Crow said.

    Twenty-four students are enrolled for the first semester so far, but the school hopes to eventually work its way up to 600 students within about four years.

    The medical school is housed in the historical Phoenix Union High School buildings, located on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus at 550 E. Van Buren, which underwent adaptive renovations that added high-tech improvements while maintaining the look and feel of the original 1911 construction.

    Likins encouraged the audience to continue investing in medical education.

    “”It’s going to take (further) expansion and political will, but this is just the beginning.””

    Arizona Senate President Ken Bennett was also among the speakers at the opening ceremony. Bennett left the talking to his colleagues and celebrated in a slightly different way.

    The audience broke into laughter as he grabbed an acoustic guitar from behind the podium and proceeded to play a parody of “”Ebony and Ivory”” by Paul McCartney.

    He dedicated the song to the new “”friendship”” between ASU and the UA.

    Standing behind the podium bearing the state seal, he sang the chorus, “”ASU and U of A, now together in perfect harmony.””

    Other verses referenced “”building a med school in (Phoenix mayor) Phil’s front yard,”” and wondered how Napolitano would feel now that the “”state budget surplus is all gone.””

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