Rowan U. plans to open medical school on NJIT's Newark campus

By Kelly Heyboer | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on June 25, 2015

A student leaves Eberhardt Hall at NJIT in Newark in a 2013 file photo.

 

NEWARK — Newark could get its first new medical school in 50 years under an unusual proposal by Rowan University and New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Rowan wants to open a branch of its School of Osteopathic Medicine, located in Camden County, on NJIT's Newark campus, university officials said. The new school could eventually enroll 200 future doctors.

The two public universities have been quietly discussing opening a joint medical school for more than a year, said Fadi Deek, NJIT's provost. But their plans were made public earlier this week when lawmakers proposed putting $10 million in the upcoming state budget to help fund the new medical school branch in Newark.

Allowing Rowan to open an offshoot of its medical school on NJIT's campus is far less complicated than getting the accreditation and approvals needed to open a school from scratch, Deek said.

"Bringing in an existing program to our campus – that's a much faster route to putting this in place," Deek said.

The Rowan-NJIT proposal comes as Seton Hall University is planning its own medical school less than 10 miles away at the former Hoffmann-La Roche headquarters on the Clifton-Nutley border.

Deek said Seton Hall and NJIT had preliminary discussions about three years ago about partnering on a medical school. But Seton Hall broke off the talks and eventually announced plans to open a school on its own.

NJIT and Rowan came up with their own plan for a medical school after the school's presidents met at an out-of-state conference and heard about a similar multi-branch medical school in Michigan, Deek said.

Rowan, NJIT and Seton Hall all want state funding to help launch their medical school projects, which require new or renovated buildings.

State lawmakers announced earlier this week that an amendment will be added to the proposed state budget to give Seton Hall and its partner, Hackensack University Health Network, $20 million of state funds to open the private medical school.

State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen), the Senate budget committee chairman, said it is appropriate to give taxpayer funds to open a private medical school run by a Catholic college because it will bring jobs to the area.

"This will become the new anchor of the redevelopment of the Hoffmann-La Roche site. This $20 million is a one-shot, one-time investment," Sarlo said.

North Jersey competition

NJIT officials said their medical school will not directly compete with Seton Hall's new medical school. The Rowan-NJIT venture will be an osteopathic medical school, which will award D.O. degrees and focus on training primary care physicians.

Seton Hall's medical school will be an allopathic medical school, which awards M.D. degrees and typically produces a large number of doctors who go into specialized fields of medicine.

Seton Hall officials said they are grateful to lawmakers for the proposal to invest state funds in their private medical school.

"New Jersey currently is suffering a well-documented physician shortage. By 2020, it is estimated there will be a shortage of 2,500 physicians in New Jersey.  Our joint venture to create a premier academic institution will help combat this physician shortage by providing key educational, research, and career opportunities to incentivize the next generation to pursue a career in medicine," Seton Hall said in a statement.

Officials at the Catholic university said Rowan and NJIT's plans to open a medical school a few miles away will not affect their plans.

"We do not consider the planned medical school as being in competition for students with the state's public institutions, but rather as complementing the state's programs by providing a high-quality private medical education alternative that will greatly benefit the residents of New Jersey and beyond," Seton Hall's statement said.

'A lot of questions'

If the Rowan-NJIT school and Seton Hall's medical school open, New Jersey will have at least six locations training medical doctors.

Rutgers University oversees New Jersey Medical School in Newark and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick and Piscataway. Rowan oversees the School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford and Cooper Medical School in Camden.

Higher education officials said the politics behind the proposed new medical schools are complex.

South Jersey politicians have often feuded with Essex County lawmakers over state funding for higher education. Rowan, South Jersey's largest public university, has grown rapidly in recent years thanks to the strong and vocal backing of South Jersey political boss George Norcross and other Democrats.

Norcross helped lead the effort to create Rowan's other medical school, Cooper Medical School in Camden. It is unclear if Essex County politicians will be open to allowing Rowan to have a presence in Newark.

Deek, NJIT's provost, said the school has begun discussing the plans for the Rowan medical school branch with local and state lawmakers in Newark. The early reaction has been mixed, he said.

"There are a lot of questions. I wouldn't say there is resistance," Deek said. "They are warming up to the idea."

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