Four Academic Institutions Sign Letters Of Intent To Expand Programs

EVANSVILLE, IN – Earlier today, four higher education organizations jointly signed letters of intent to co-locate at a new interdisciplinary academic health science education & research campus. The signing ceremony took place at the Chamber of Commerce of Southwestern Indiana.

Signing the letters of intent were Dr. Daniel L. Schenk, Chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College; Dr. Thomas Kazee, President of The University of Evansville; Dr. Linda L. M. Bennett, President of the University of Southern Indiana; and Dr. Steven G. Becker, Director and Associate Dean of the Indiana University School of Medicine-Evansville (IUSM-E). The academic leaders spoke to the media about graduate and undergraduate programs that each institution plans to offer at an expanded academic campus.

The new medical education & research partners (MERP) campus is expected to open in the fall of 2017. The University of Southern Indiana plans to focus on graduate level education and research with over 200 students attending new or existing courses at the new site by 2020. Programming includes Master of Science in Occupational Therapy, Master of Health Administration, Doctor of Occupational Therapy, Health Informatics Research Center and Doctor of Nursing Practice. “USI is proud of the demonstrated success of our Nursing and Health Professions students. The diversity of our graduate level coursework is instrumental in preparing healthcare leaders, across a variety of disciplines, to better serve their patients and our community,” said University of Southern Indiana President Linda L.M. Bennett. “We have a strong interest in the interdisciplinary success of this partnership to further enrich our students’ educational experiences.”

The University of Evansville intends to launch a new physician assistant program with 60 students and over 265 total health professions students enrolled by 2020. UE President Thomas Kazee noted, “The University of Evansville is proud to be a part of the new Medical Education & Research Partnership, working with IU and other local universities to educate students in health professions and meet the health care needs of our region and our nation. The demand for the University’s wide range of health care programs has shown the need to provide increasing educational opportunities for students interested in health sciences. We look forward to the new and expanded impact this partnership will make on our students, both in existing academic programs such as nursing and physical therapy and future developments such as our recently announced physician’s assistant program, the first in the Tri-State.” Additional programs being considered by UE for placement at the new facility include Doctor of Physical Therapy, Master of Public Health, Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science Nursing, and Master of Science in Nursing.

Providing the largest footprint on the new campus will be Ivy Tech Community College Southwest. Daniel Schenk, Chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College-Southwest, announced the school’s plans to relocate all existing health science programs to the new campus. Chancellor Schenk stated that the medical education & research partnership will allow Ivy Tech Community College the opportunity to move its schools of Health Science and Nursing from the main campus location on First Avenue to the new medical education campus location. Today, these schools serve over 1,100 students. Both existing and future undergraduate health care support programs are anticipated to bring 1400 students by 2020.

Chancellor Schenk further noted that the interdisciplinary learning that will occur between students and faculty attending the shared medical education campus will provide a unique educational experience for all students served at the location. “The educational offerings at this facility will be unique in that it will be one of the only medical campuses in the nation that offers associate degrees up through residency programs,” Schenk said.

As the anchor of the academic campus and in keeping with the eight regional campuses of the Indiana University School of Medicine, IUSM-Evansville will offer all four years of medical school at the new location. The increase in class size and four year program will provide over 80 students by 2020. Dr. Steven Becker, Director and Associate Dean of the Evansville regional campus stated, “Training our future healthcare teams requires greater numbers of well-trained physician leaders. The expansion of IUSM-E to a four year program and the development of new residency programs in our hospital consortium are critical to meet the healthcare needs of our patients and to train the next generation of physician leaders for our region. Building upon the presence of the IU School of Medicine, one of the nation’s largest and most successful public medical schools, Southern Indiana and Northwestern Kentucky have the necessary resources to build a team-based model of medical and health science education.”

A signature element of the interdisciplinary campus will be a 40,000 square foot world-class simulation center with an advanced collaborative space where improved technologies and methodologies are tested and used to enhance the skills of the provider teams. The facility will be a combination of immersive training space, research, and potential product development unique to the region.

Additional planning with regional hospitals for expanding graduate medical education residencies is moving forward as well. Currently, Deaconess Hospital, St. Mary’s Hospital, Memorial Hospital and Health Care, and Owensboro Health are working to develop multiple regional residency programs through a consortium model.

As the planning study has progressed over the year, steering committee officials have worked to develop an oral health element for the campus. Discussions with the IU School of Dentistry have led to an opportunity to have fourth-year IU School of Dentistry students studying here by 2017. “The Indiana University School of Dentistry is committed to the university’s vision to be both entrepreneurial and collaborative in its pursuit of excellence, and so we view the development of a multi-institutional health science campus in Evansville as a potentially exciting opportunity for the school to bring a comprehensive oral health care component to the project through an on-site clinical rotation for our dental students,” says John N. Williams, Jr., dean of IU’s Indianapolis-based dental school, which is the state’s only dental school. “We are engaging the dental leadership of the greater Evansville area in our study of the feasibility of the rotation, which could go far in helping to address growing access to dental care issues in Southern Indiana, particularly in the rural counties.” The IU School of Dentistry has 434 dental students enrolled for the 2013-2014 academic year.

Introducing dental students to the greater Evansville area through an extended clinical rotation on the new campus and in the community setting could increase the likelihood of young dentists remaining in the area after graduation and setting up their dental practices in Southern Indiana communities – some of which have a substantial shortage of dentists.

Officials from each academic group are currently working with Indiana University to develop space and structural needs for the shared campus. Planning documents will be completed in November along with a formal request for proposals. Funding for the campus and programs will be derived from state, local, public and private sources. A decision on the location of the campus is expected in February.

Over the past several months, multiple constituency groups have been engaged in providing feedback to the project steering committee, led by consulting firm Tripp Umbach Associates. Earlier this year, a survey was conducted among hospitals and physicians in the community as well as Memorial Hospital and Healthcare Center in Jasper. Members of the public will have an opportunity to learn more and provide input at two upcoming meetings scheduled for later this month. The first meeting will be held in Warrick County at Deaconess Gateway on Wednesday, October 23rd at 11:00 AM in conference rooms B/C. The public is also invited to the Mayor’s Travelling Town Hall Meeting at Pine Haven Health & Rehabilitation Center, 3400 Stocker Dr., on Evansville’s West side on Wednesday, October 30th at 5:30 PM. Additional information can be found on the Medical Education & Research Partners website at www.evvmerp.org.

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