Marist College and HealthQuest are starting a school of medicine
Patrick Oehler, Poughkeepsie Journal
Marist College and Health Quest are teaming up to create a medical school, a move the organizations say will change the health care, economic and educational landscape of the mid-Hudson Valley.
The Marist Health Quest School of Medicine would be the first MD-granting college between Albany and Westchester.
Officials say it will help meet a significant demand for physician education, bring high paying jobs to the area, attract top doctors and provide residents with greater access to high-quality healthcare close to home.
“Our primary objective is to create an avenue that allows for more physicians to be trained… at a superb medical campus,” said Health Quest President and CEO Robert Friedberg. “The investments we make will allow us to fulfill that vision.”
As the school draws hundreds of new people to the area, an “economic ripple effect (will go) through the entire community,” Friedberg said. And after graduation, doctors and their families will remain in the area “to be part of an academic medical center, which will strengthen the quality of healthcare in the area.”
For the college, having a medical school is “really a major step,” said Marist President David Yellen. It’s also the “natural next step,” since the school has expanded its health and science offerings in recent years, adding healthcare-related graduate programs and opening a new science building.
“We think it (the medical school) is going to do great things for Marist, Health Quest and the region,” Yellen added.
The economic impact of the school will be “one of the most significant and enduring” in the Hudson Valley, said Assistant Dutchess County Executive Ron Hicks.
According to Marist and Health Quest:
► The first class of 60 medical students is expected to start in July 2022. Within six years, the class size is projected to double, so once the school is running at full enrollment, an estimated 480 students will be attending at any given time.
► There will be more than 100 full-time medical school employees, from faculty to custodians, with numerous additional part-time opportunities. That doesn’t include temporary construction jobs.
► Plans call for the construction of a 100,000-square-foot building on the Vassar Brothers Medical Center campus in the City of Poughkeepsie, which will house school administration and classroom space.
► Medical students will also take certain classes on the Marist campus, in the nearby Town of Poughkeepsie.
► After the architectural plans are finalized, building completion will take approximately three years.
A doctor shortage
New York is home to 16 private and public medical schools, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Medical school enrollment across the state rose 23 percent in a decade, from 8,756 in 2006 to 10,743 in 2016.
But the association predicts a U.S. shortfall of up to 121,000 physicians by 2030, triggered in part by a limited number of medical school and residency slots.
For Dutchess County, the closest local MD-granting medical schools are in Westchester County and Albany.
“This region needs more doctors,” said Greg Rakow, chairman of the Health Quest board of trustees, in a statement. “The population is getting older and many of our existing primary care physicians and specialists are nearing retirement age.”
Plans for the School of Medicine have been in the works for two years.
Health Quest and the college were both “aware of the need for allied health providers in the Hudson Valley,” said Geoff Brackett, executive vice president of Marist.
After the idea was on the table, the organizations conducted an analysis to see if it was viable.
“It turned out we had all the necessary pieces to put together,” said Dr. Glenn Loomis, Health Quest’s chief medical operations officer and president of its medical practice.
Health Quest and Marist will split operating costs of the medical school, while Health Quest will cover building expenses, Yellen said.
The medical school will not have an impact on the City of Poughkeepsie tax rolls, said Friedberg, the Health Quest CEO.
The school is projected to be at full enrollment by 2032. Over the 15-year period, the total estimated operating expenses (minus tuition) will be around $110 million, with another $75 million for building costs.
The organizations anticipate some of their funding will come from philanthropy and grants.
After startup costs have waned, “the ongoing cost will be modest and sustainable, about $2 million split on (an annual) basis,” Friedberg said. “We do hope and believe that we will be able to create an endowment to cover the costs over time, but we took a very conservative approach.”
Tuition rates “will be determined later,” Yellen said. “But most private medical schools are in the $50,000- to $60,000-a-year range.”
Healthcare and education are two of the fastest growing sectors in the nation and region, officials say. And when it comes to growth, both Health Quest and Marist have been busy.
Over the past couple of years, Marist launched a doctoral program (its first-ever) in physical therapy, along with a physician’s assistant graduate program. The college also opened the Allied Health and Science building on campus, giving students access to more medical technology.
Marist’s new programs acted as “a kind of precursor… good momentum going into a project like this,” Brackett said.
Health Quest, which includes Vassar Brothers Medical Center, Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck, Putnam Hospital Center in Carmel and Sharon Hospital in Connecticut, is in the midst of its own expansions.
Next year, Health Quest is set to launch new residency programs and complete a merger with Western Connecticut Health Network to extend its coverage.
At Vassar Brothers, work is underway on a $545 million patient pavilion, which will add 264 private rooms and other medical services. The pavilion, which is expected to open in early 2020, is one of the largest capital projects ever in Dutchess County; last year, it was ranked as the fifth largest medical project in the U.S. by the business publication Modern Healthcare.
“We think this (the mid-Hudson Valley) is a very vibrant region, a really ideal place to create this hub of activity for both medicine and medical education,” Friedberg said.
Health Quest and Marist announced the news at a press conference Wednesday afternoon. Representatives from both organizations were joined on the Marist campus by local officials.
It’s a “great day for the city,” Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison said after the conference. Having a medical school is a privilege, “so now we have the responsibility of helping make this happen.”
With the creation of a medical school, Health Quest and Marist are “saying Poughkeepsie is a place to come to…not only to get health care, but to be educated for health care,” Rolison said. “And that is a major statement” — especially considering there are only 151 MD-granting schools of medicine in the U.S.
The impact of the school on Dutchess will be “tremendous,” said County Executive Marc Molinaro, in a statement. “This new investment will undoubtedly enhance what makes us a great place to live, work, learn, and raise a family.”
The future of medicine
Marist and Health Quest are “united around the vision of creating a medical school that focuses on serving the needs of the next 100 years, not the past 100 years,” said Dr. Loomis, the chief medical operations officer at Health Quest.
The School of Medicine will provide physician education that transforms patient care and prepares new doctors for today’s technologically advanced healthcare environment, the two organizations said in a statement.
“Marist College is a very innovative institution,” Brackett said. “It is filled with people who are always looking toward the future. Faculty for the new medical school will be recruited based on their interest and willingness to engage with advanced technology-enabled education.”
Doctors will be trained to combine the computing power of artificial intelligence with their own intuition and communication skills, creating a more personalized and effective healthcare education.
In fact, the medical school will utilize “the core advanced technologies of one of our other top employers, IBM,” said Hicks, the assistant county executive.
Health Quest and Marist will each have a hand in running medical school operations.
The Marist College Board of Trustees will oversee academic governance matters, while the Health Quest board will oversee clinical governance.
The two organizations will also create a joint board, consisting of five Marist members, five Health Quest members, the college president, the Health Quest CEO and the School of Medicine dean.
The Marist Health Quest School of Medicine Joint Board of Overseers will serve as the immediate oversight authority for operations, budget and strategic planning.
A dean will provide day-to-day leadership at the school.
The School of Medicine will seek approvals from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the state Education Department and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
“We are down to the nitty-gritty, (figuring out) what the curriculum will look like, which classes will happen when,” Loomis said.
A search for a founding dean and faculty will begin immediately, because “we have to hire key people early on,” said Yellen, the Marist president.
The medical school is expected to be fully staffed and accredited by July 2021, at which time, it will start recruiting students.
“We know there are vastly more qualified applicants than there are seats in accredited medical schools,” Yellen said. “We expect that right from the beginning … it will be very selective, as are all medical schools.”
Nina Schutzman: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-451-4518 Twitter: @pojonschutzman
Vassar Brothers Medical Center on track with $545 million patient pavilion project
Health Quest launches general surgery medical residency program
Taxed Off: Private colleges strain municipal budgets