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An opioid epidemic. High smoking rates. Health care provider shortages. Indiana faces serious public health challenges. Side Effects Public Media provides in-depth coverage of these issues and more.

Indiana Med School Move Creates New Opportunities

Isaiah Seibert/Side Effects Public Media
The Evansville campus of the Indiana University School of Medicine is now located in the Stone Family Center for Health Sciences, along with some health professions programs from two local universities.

The Indiana University School of Medicine’s (IUSM) Evansville campus has a new home.

Once located on the campus of the University of Southern Indiana, the med school moved late last year to downtown Evansville. 

Side Effects asked Dr. Steven Becker, the school’s director and associate dean, about the move – and his plans.

(Answers have been edited for length.)

Why move? What’s better about having a downtown location, and sharing a building with other health professions programs from the University of Southern Indiana and the University of Evansville?

Credit IU School of Medicine-Evansville
Dr. Steven Becker

Many factors were considered in the move to downtown. Location, funding and student preferences were the impetus for such a critical decision.

  • Location: As the collaborative venture was originally planned with multiple academic institutions, including the University of Evansville - a private university, a neutral location made sense.
  • Funding: The City of Evansville provided over $50 million to the program in terms of location, downtown amenities and funding for construction. Economic development spinoffs are already occurring.
  • Benchmarking other successful academic health science centers across the U.S. Model was based on the successful “Medical Mile” in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
  • Student preference: In early strategic planning phase, students were surveyed and asked what kind of amenities they were looking for in a graduate program. An urban location in a downtown area was at the top of the list.
  • Faculty preference: Many of our faculty are practicing physicians with very limited time for daily travel. A centrally located campus made more sense than the far west side of Evansville.
  • Most importantly, developing a clinical hub with medical students and allied healthcare workers and in partnership with our hospital partners in our most economically challenged areas of the community allows for increased healthcare opportunities for the most needy, including critical dental care. The outpatient dental clinic is anticipated to be operational sometime in 2019.

What was the largest stumbling block in planning the move to the new building? Has the transition to new facility been more or less seamless, or have there been a few growing pains?

Every challenge is an opportunity for learning. The project was challenging in determining shared infrastructure needs and operations. As this project is a new model, there are still areas that are undergoing evaluation and improvements.

Why would a student choose to finish their medical education in Evansville instead of moving to the main campus in Indianapolis? In what ways is the Evansville campus unique among IU School of Medicine campuses?

Regional students do as well, if not better, in the regional centers compared to Indianapolis. The small class size allows for individual attention and close working opportunities with their faculty in both education and research. Over 90 percent of the school of medicine graduates will practice in practices like our faculty do in Evansville. A small percentage of students actually end up practicing in academic health centers such as Indianapolis, so students in regional centers actually learn and experience their education in the environments they will practice in.

Educating students outside of Indianapolis increases the likelihood that they will put down roots in Evansville and other communities and serve patients in every corner of the state. That is why IU School of Medicine is investing in its campuses to update facilities, increase student services and programs, provide clerkship opportunities outside of Indianapolis, and work in partnership with local hospitals to add residency training in these regions.

With six major hospitals housing about 2,000 beds, medical students in Evansville have access to physician educators in a range of medical specialties. An expanded residency program here will provide more than 100 new graduate medical education positions over the next few years.

Do you think this multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary model of training health professionals will be the future of medical education?

There are various ways to accomplish the same goals.  We believe this model can be very effective. According the guidelines set by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the faculty of a medical school ensures that the core curriculum of the medical education program prepares medical students to function collaboratively on health care teams that include health professionals from other disciplines as they provide coordinated services to patients. 

What are your goals for the new campus? What do you see the school doing in 10 or 15 years that would’ve been impossible at the University of Southern Indiana?

The classrooms and learning spaces in the new center were designed to house larger class sizes for the MD students. Our goal is to strengthen the pipeline of future healthcare providers from undergraduate pre-medical studies through residency program growth.  We wanted to design a center where students from various healthcare disciplines could learn together like they would be working together in the future.

Additionally, clinical research is a vital area of growth that will enable the IU School of Medicine to partner with the community and local clinical sites to assist in groundbreaking studies to improve the lives of Hoosiers and beyond, address the needs for specialized areas such as psychiatry and provide access to state of the art clinical trials so patients do not have to travel in order to potentially get life-saving therapies.

Anything else you’d like to add?

The Clinical and Translational Science Institute will bring together not only the three universities, but many other community partners. We expect that the model here will be something where people travel here from around the country to see what the future of medicine looks like.

This story was produced by Side Effects Public Media, a news collaborative covering public health.

Follow Isaiah on Twitter: @isaiah_seibert