To-do list for future med school a long one

To-do list for future med school a long one

URBANA — Drawing on a cooking analogy, University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise said the proposal for a new, engineering-focused medical school in Champaign-Urbana is "still being baked."

In fact, not all the ingredients have been mixed together yet.

"There's a lot more work to be done," she said Wednesday while meeting with a group of faculty in Urbana.

Tripp Umbach, the consulting firm brought on to create a feasibility report for a new, autonomous medical school here, is working on a follow-up report.

And the to-do list for the consultants, Wise and her staff is a long one: develop a budget and a way to finance the school, develop curriculum, work out the governance structure, figure out the accreditation. Plus, meet with various groups across the university to hear concerns and ideas and determine if those responses warrant further explanation of the proposal, a different way to inform people about the proposal or for the campus to take a different path.

On Wednesday, Wise shared an overview of her vision for the school with one of those groups: the University Senates Conference, which is made up of faculty from each of the three campuses. She also plans to meet with Urbana's Academic Senate, a quasi-legislative body of faculty, students and a few staff, in the fall.

Her message?

"Change is always difficult, but change should be considered as part of the norm — and what we are trying to find is a mechanism to make sure this is win-win-win for all the campuses," she said.

For its study, Tripp Umbach considered a couple different models for the university. That includes creating a new college of medicine developed through stronger alignment with the existing College of Medicine at the UI Chicago, and a larger regional college of medicine with partner hospital systems in both Champaign-Urbana and Peoria. The consultants ended up recommending that the Urbana campus and Carle partner to form a new medical school, one that would tap into campus strengths in bioengineering, high-speed computing and other areas.

Currently, the medical school in Urbana is a regional campus of the UI's College of Medicine in Chicago. Several faculty from Chicago have raised questions about the proposal, on issues related to faculty input, funding, impact on students, curriculum and more.

"The devil is in the details," said UIC Professor Don Chambers, who chairs the senate conference's health affairs committee. "I think my colleagues could buy into this once they understand the details, and once they understand and we all understand this is really complementary and not adversarial."

Tripp Umbach consultants are drafting a business plan, which would include a budget, for the campus and Carle. It's expected to be done this fall, campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler said.

In addition, a committee of people from the UI and Carle is being assembled, and its members are expected to meet later this month. The group will evaluate the best way to put into place a governance structure for the medical school.

"I believe if we do this right, if we make it small, if we make it complementary, we make it out of the ordinary, conventional mechanism of an academic structure, that we will be able to build something that will be important to our campus, but as important to the community of Urbana-Champaign, to central Illinois, to the state of Illinois, to Chicago and UIC," Wise said.

Establishing this type of public-private partnership between the UI and Carle is "new, but not totally new," Wise said, pointing to the UI's relationship with the research park, which is a limited liability company the university established in 1999.

One of the reasons for creating a public-private entity, she said, is that the campus would not ask the state for more money to fund it. It would not be taking money away from other UI campuses, colleges or departments, she said.

Wise said she has spoken with potential donors about the idea but has not officially asked for donations yet.

According to the feasibility study, the new college of medicine would open in fall 2017. Start-up costs have been estimated at $100 million. Consultants envisioned a $200 million endowment, mostly from private sources, as well as annual operating revenue of $22 million in the college's early years and $47 million when it is fully operational in 2021.

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