Regents get answers about Phoenix med school plan

By Jesse Lewis
Arizona Daily Wildcat
August 22, 2005

The UA medical school expansion in Phoenix is another step closer to becoming a reality following recent changes and clarifications made to the budget proposal.

At the Arizona Board of Regents meeting last week, regents approved a more detailed request for the money to fund the project after Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed the proposal in March.

Napolitano cited certain questions about the proposal needed to be answered before the budget could be approved, including budget allocations and a long-term plan for the school.

The UA Medical School Expansion in Phoenix will be a partnership between the UA and Arizona State University.

The proposal would allocate $6 million to renovate the site of the school, which will be located in former Phoenix Union High School buildings in downtown Phoenix, and $1 million to ASU funding the bioinformatics portion of the school.

The medical school is expected to open for its first school year in 2007. It will serve 24 students and will reach a full capacity of 150 students by 2015, according to literature distributed at the meeting.

The UA's current medical school admits 110 students to its program, said UA President Peter Likins, and students spend their last two years in some of Phoenix's nine hospitals.

ASU President Michael Crow said the location of the school will benefit students as well as the state.

"It will capitalize on Phoenix and what it and its institutions have to offer," Crow said.

Likins said with retirements of medical professionals, a shortage of nearly 600 physicians in the state, and citizens' increasing need to find physicians, the medical school is a necessity for Arizona.

Slides presented during the meeting explained the school's possible potential of generating $2.1 billion in annual economic impact and estimated the school would generate jobs for 24,000 Arizona residents.

"(It will be) a fantastic return to the citizens of Arizona, not just in health care potential, but economic potential," Likins said.

Former Regent's President Robert Bulla said Arizona's need for physicians is very great, given certain circumstances.

"It is difficult to recruit (physicians to Arizona) because of shortages across the country and malpractice problems in Arizona," Bulla said.

The governor said her reasoning for vetoing the original proposals was that her budget was focused on education at all levels, as well as health care public safety and natural resources, according to the March 22 Arizona Daily Wildcat.

However, Likins said he hopes the Legislature will see that the need for the school impacts Arizona citizens more than the universities.

"We hope the legislature will not see it as meeting the needs of universities, but the needs of the people," Likins said.

The detailed proposal will be submitted for the Legislature's approval on Sept. 1.