Anatomy of a New U.S. Medical School: The Commonwealth Medical College
Raymond A. Smego, Jr., MD, MPH, Robert M. D’Alessandri, MD, Barry Linger, EdD, Virginia A. Hunt, MUA, James Ryan, John Monnier, Gerald Litwack, PhD, Paul Katz, MD, and Wayne Thompson
In response to the Association of American Medical Colleges’ call for increases in medical school enrollment, several new MD-granting schools have opened in recent years. This article chronicles the development of one of these new schools, The Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC), a private, notfor-profit, independent medical college with a distributive model of education and regional campuses in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, and Williamsport, Pennsylvania. TCMC is unique among new medical schools because it is not affiliated with a parent university. The authors outline the process of identifying a need for a new regional medical school in northeastern Pennsylvania, the financial planning process, the recruitment of faculty and staff, the educational and research missions of TCMC, and details of the infrastructure of the new school. TCMC’s purpose is to increase the number of physicians in northeastern Pennsylvania, and in the next 20 years it is expected to add 425 practicing physicians to this part of the state. TCMC is characterized by autonomy, private and public support, assured resources in good supply, a relatively secure clinical base, strong cultural ties to the northeast, recruiting practices that reflect the dean’s convictions, and strong support from its board of directors. TCMC has invested heavily in social and community medicine in its educational programs while still developing a strong research emphasis. Major challenges have centered on TCMC’s lack of a parent university in areas of accreditation, infrastructure development, faculty recruitment, and graduate medical education programs. These challenges, as well as solutions and benefits, are discussed.
Acad Med. 2010; 85:881–888.
The Commonwealth Medical College will educate aspiring physicians and scientists to serve society using a community-based, patient-centered, interprofessional, and evidence-based model of education that is committed to inclusion, promotes discovery, and utilizes innovative techniques. —Mission Statement of The Commonwealth Medical College, Scranton, Pennsylvania, 2009
rom the increasing number of physician-supply reports, it is clear that the national physician shortage is upon us and looms large in the future. The Council for Graduate Medical Education,1 in 2005, estimated a shortage of 85,000 doctors by 2020, or approximately a 10% shortage in the national physician workforce. In June 2006, in a complete reversal of its policy position only a decade earlier, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) issued a statement
that recommended an increase of 30% in the number of enrollees in MDgranting schools over the number of enrollees in 2002.2,3 As a result, the entering class for U.S. MD- and DOgranting medical schools in September 2007 was the largest in history. Most of the increased future enrollment will occur through the expansion of existing medical schools. However, as many as 10 emerging MD-granting schools will enroll a projected 1,080 students by 2015.4 The Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC) in northeastern Pennsylvania is a new, private, not-for-profit, independent, community-based medical school, with regional campuses in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, and Williamsport (Figure 1). TCMC opened its doors to a charter class of 65 students in August 2009. The purpose of this article is to describe the early history and anatomy of TCMC and to outline the challenges, goals, strategies, and innovations for this new medical institution in areas such as curriculum, faculty, accreditation, finances, communications, partnering, and planning.
Identifying a Need
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