University of Northern Colorado Seeks Legislative Approval for Medical School | Legislature

The University of Northern Colorado will seek permission from state legislators to start and operate a school of osteopathic medicine.

It will be the state’s second public medical school, according to State Senator Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, who will sponsor the bill, along with Senate Speaker Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo. In the House, the sponsors are Representatives Mary Young, D-Greeley and Perry Will, R-New Castle.

The bill, if approved, would authorize the state’s third medical school. In addition to the University of Colorado Anschutz medical campus, there is the for-profit Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine, which opened in 2006.

Sonnenberg called the addition of a medical school at UNC “natural fit” for the region and increased the potential of Greeley, Loveland and Fort Collins hospitals to become medical residency sites. Banner Health, which operates the three hospitals, has already agreed to become a clinical rotation site for third and fourth year students, according to a press release from UNC.

Garcia said he was excited to work with Sonnenberg on the bill.

“We recognize the importance of having a policy like this in place. There are so many challenges with healthcare providers and physicians that we need to be innovative. Senator Sonnenberg was on a good concept and people are supporting him, ”Garcia said.

One potential obstacle – CU’s fears that the UNC might encroach on its territory – has already been ruled out.

CU School of Medicine spokesperson and chief of staff Mark Couch has confirmed that the university will not oppose the bill.

“This lack of formal opposition speaks to the merits of the proposal,” Garcia told Colorado Politics.

UNC President Andy Feinstein, at a town hall meeting on campus Nov. 4, said the idea had been under discussion for about three years. Initially, the university planned to partner with a for-profit entity.

But the financial challenges facing the UNC, Feinstein said, ended those early talks.

That changed last year, Feinstein told Colorado Politics, when he was approached and invited by college friends, donors, business leaders, Banner Health and the group of doctors from the ‘University of Colorado.

This led the university to hire Tripp Umbach of Pittsburgh, who is a consultant in health and higher education, to conduct a feasibility study. Tripp Umbach has done around 60 feasibility studies for medical schools, with 40 schools opening as a result, Feinstein said.

The study indicates that Colorado needs more primary care physicians than existing medical schools can currently provide, due to both the expected increase in population and an aging workforce. medical work. The study recommended that UNC go ahead with the four-year program.

According to the feasibility study, the forecast is that by 2030, Colorado will need 1,773 additional primary care physicians, a 49% increase from the state’s primary care physician workforce in 2010. In 2019, nearly a third of the medical workforce was aged 60 or older, according to the study.

The feasibility study estimated that the UNC will need to invest around $ 50 million for plant, equipment and other start-up expenses. However, the university estimates the start-up costs at nearly $ 150 million. These costs include a new facility, rather than the reallocation of other facilities.

The university’s website says “a generous donor who is committed to supporting the project in its initial phase.” Feinstein said the donor wanted to remain anonymous and naming that donor’s medical school was not part of the conversation. They have the first 6 million dollars in cash to pay for the exploratory phase.

“There are a lot of obstacles ahead of us, a lot of work to do,” Feinstein said. “But we have a lot of friends who have expressed an interest in supporting us.”

The location has yet to be determined, although Bishop Lehr Hall’s site, which has been largely vacant since 2002, is a potential, according to UNC spokeswoman Deanna Herbert.

If the legislation gets General Assembly approval and the UNC pushes the project through to implementation, the first courses would be offered in fall 2025, according to the university. The school could enroll 75 initially and up to 150 at full maturity, which it estimates to be in 2029.

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