JOPLIN - The Missouri Southern State University Board of Governors has given approval to pursue funding and planning for a medical doctorate program.
A medical school could be two to three years away for the university.
The board on Friday gave unanimous approval to Larry McIntire to pursue funding sources and academic approval of a degree program in osteopathic medicine.
McIntire is the director of the ear, nose and throat residency program that has been maintained by Freeman Health System in Joplin for 16 years. He formerly served as the chairman of the department of ear, nose and throat medicine at the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine.
McIntire estimates starting the program at Missouri Southern could cost $15 million to $30 million. He and the board agreed that philanthropy would have to be heavily involved to make the project possible.
McIntire said now that he has the green light from the board, the next step is to talk with the Department of Higher Education about accreditation, and approach regional hospitals to see about their ability to help with clinical training.
He said the medical school could include 75 to 100 students a year and shouldn't cause major changes to undergraduate program offerings.
McIntire said a medical school in Joplin would bring people to the area and increase the level of care in the region's hospitals.
It could also help address the growing shortage of physicians in the country, which McIntire said is predicted to reach between 85,000 and 250,000 by the year 2020.
University President Bruce Speck said the university is not committing itself to the project but rather actively exploring the option of developing the program.