An unusual experiment in collaborative medical education will end May 1, when Arizona State University will formally ask to withdraw from joint administration with the University of Arizona of the College of Medicine-Phoenix. The split will leave UA with sole responsibility for oversight of the medical school but will not threaten other projects that faculty of the state’s public universities have initiated together on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus.
“These are extraordinarily challenging times for our universities,” said Ernest Calderón, president of the Arizona Board of Regents. “This move will allow us to streamline management of the college, and let ASU focus scarce resources on other educational priorities.”
All three of Arizona’s public universities have had to sharply reduce their budgets as the Arizona Legislature has cut their appropriations by a combined $230 million over the past two fiscal years. Most recently, the Regents have mandated that all three universities trim their salary expenses by 2.75 percent. For ASU, continuing to contribute 25 percent of the operational costs of the College of Medicine-Phoenix became tooarduous an expense.
To date, UA has contributed 71 percent of the college’s costs, and Northern Arizona University has chipped in 4 percent. Once the Regents approve ASU’s withdrawal, UA will begin assuming those costs that have been met by ASU, and the college will be known as the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix. NAU’s contribution will continue unchanged.
“ASU has a lot of other responsibilities, and this wasn’t their top priority. It was UA’s,” said William Crist, UA’s vice president for health affairs, in the Arizona Republic. “At the end, they felt squeezed financially.”
Both the Regents and representatives of the universities indicated that medical students will not be negatively affected by the change.
“In the end, I think both medical students and undergraduates in our system will benefit from the move,” Calderón said.
“We will continue to support the Biomedical Campus,” said Virgil Renzulli, ASU’s vice president of public affairs, in the Phoenix Business Journal. “We still have faculty participating in the medical school. What we’re not doing is participating as a financial partner.”
In an e-mailed memo announcing the decision, UA President Robert Shelton assured the community that the rationale for creating and now expanding the College of Medicine-Phoenix remained applicable, and that the three universities would continue working together to meet the state’s needs.
“With the State of Arizona facing a dangerous shortfall of physicians and other health care professionals, the opportunity to expand our medical school operations in Phoenix holds enormous long-term benefit for both the University and the State,” President Shelton wrote. “While ASU will no longer be a partner in the COM-Phoenix, they and NAU will have important roles at the Phoenix Biomedical Campus (PBC), where the College of Medicine is located.”
The Arizona Biomedical Collaborative 1 building will continue to house researchers and faculty from both UA and ASU, including ASU’s Department of Biomedical Informatics, and the soon-to-be-built Health Sciences Education Building will serve students from UA’s College of Pharmacy, ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation, and NAU’s allied-health programs, in addition to medical students.
“The tri-university participation in health care education and research in Phoenix provides an ideal opportunity to bring together interdisciplinary training programs that prepare the workforce needed by Arizona and the nation to care for patients with chronic illnesses,” President Shelton wrote. “Phoenix has the patients needed for this extensive training and the PBC affords a perfect environment to bring it about.”
For more information:
“ASU plans to end partnership role in UA med school,” Arizona Republic, 04/03/2010
“ASU withdraws from financial partnership in UA medical school,” Phoenix Business Journal, 04/02/2010
“Arizona State University to Withdraw From Partnership With University of Arizona on College of Medicine-Phoenix,” UA news release, 04/02/2010