UT eyes expanding medical school reach into Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The University of Tennessee Health Science Center says it is looking at expanding its program in Nashville.

The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/1AFlYvd) reports UTHSC Chancellor Steve J. Schwab said in a statement that the institution, which is based in Memphis, is eyeing “a major construction project” that would bring allow it to attract more medical students to Middle Tennessee.

The aim is a satellite campus in Nashville in partnership with Saint Thomas Health that would be located on six acres near Saint Thomas West Hospital. If the UT Health Science Center Nashville Campus gets approval, the university would invest up to $40 million.

Jessica Wells, vice president for medical education and research for Saint Thomas Health and an assistant dean for graduate medical education at UTHSC, said the training program would serve aspiring doctors and dentists, advanced practice nurses and other health providers.

She said the number of residents at Saint Thomas Health hospitals is expected to increase from about 32 to about 200 over the next three year.

“It just became the right time and the right place to really take a good look at our partners and how we can grow together,” Wells said.

The Nashville satellite will not affect the Memphis campus, which has served as home to the University of Tennessee’s medical school for 103 years, according to a top official.

“In fact, it increases our reach and makes us stronger both in Memphis and statewide,” Ken Brown, UTHSC executive vice chancellor and chief operations officer, said in a statement.

“UT’s responsibility is to serve people across the state of Tennessee but the nucleus of the UTHSC campus will remain here in Memphis,” he said.

“This expansion enables us to make a greater contribution to the health care workforce across the state — in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga.”

Note: This was previously reported by the Commercial Appeal, HERE, for notable example last month. And, editorially speaking, the newspaper doesn’t think much of the idea. An excerpt from the editorial:

Maybe we are just paranoid, but news that the University of Tennessee plans to establish a health science center in Nashville should worry Memphians.

Although university officials have given assurances that the Nashville center will not drain resources and students from the 103-year-old University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, we are a bit concerned that it would be something to benefit Nashville at Memphis’ expense.

It has happened before, especially in the legislature, which created a college of medicine that opened at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City in the early 1970s.

…UTHSC establishing a toehold in the state capital sounds like a good thing, but here is the rub: UT officials said the Nashville site will help the center compete for Middle and East Tennessee students who do not want to spend all three or four years of schooling in Memphis. After their first year here, they could move to the Nashville.

That would represent the loss of some valuable human capital and their economic impact on the city. That is why Memphians and all the direct stakeholders in a successful Medical Center should be worried, despite assurances from UT officials that the health science center in Nashville will do no harm to Memphis.