UPDATE: Missouri universities to partner for new medical program

Wednesday, July 1, 2009 | 6:44 p.m. CDT

JOPLIN — Two Missouri universities are hoping plans for a new medical school program will provide trained professionals to relieve the physician shortage in the southern half of the state.

Missouri Southern State University and Kansas City University of Medicine in Biosciences are partnering to create a four-year osteopathic medical doctorate program on the Missouri Southern campus.

Almost 70 percent of Missouri counties lack necessary primary care, mental or dental health providers based on the county's population, according to a release from Gov. Jay Nixon's office in May.

Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, Missouri Southern, Freeman Health System and about 50 southwest Missouri community leaders participated in discussions and presentations Tuesday to seek community support for the project.

Officials say the medical program will not cost taxpayers anything and will bring an economic boost to southwest Missouri, with 150 students entering the program each year and 60 percent relocating with their families to the area.

Community leaders agreed the project's largest challenges include obtaining approval from the state board, creating a partnership with regional hospitals for student clinicals and finding space for the program at Missouri Southern.

The Higher Learning Commission and the American Osteopathic Association also will have to approve the partnership for the school to be ready by its target opening date of fall 2011. The entire procedure will take 18 months, said Karen Pletz, Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences president.

The two universities next have to establish contracts with at least six hospitals in the Joplin-Springfield-Cape Girardeau areas for clinical programs for medical students to participate in their junior and senior years.

Pletz said Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences already has reached a clinical program agreement with Freeman Health System.

Missouri Southern also would provide space for the program in its new, 85,000-square-foot Health Sciences Building, which is under construction. Another building will be needed to house anatomy/cadaver labs that would cost about $7 million. Missouri Southern is looking for donors to match half.

Students in the program would be enrolled at the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences and pay about $40,000 a year for tuition.

Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences would create and fund an estimated 60 new jobs for the program, Pletz said.

Although the partnership would mean Missouri Southern wouldn't have the benefit of medical-school tuition dollars, university officials say the school should receive extra revenue from increased undergraduate enrollment.

"No public money will be used to support this," Pletz said of the program. "KCUMB will fund the medical school, yet the boost to MSSU is in being able to recruit students."

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