Utah’s 2nd medical school slated for construction in Ivins

A conceptual picture of Rocky Vista University | Image courtesy Ivins City

IVINS – Ivins City will soon be home to a medical school. The Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine-Southern Utah branch is expected to open and be accepting students by August 2017.

Plans for the project, which had been kept under wraps by city officials due to a nondisclosure agreement, were presented in a special joint session of the Ivins City Council and Planning Commission Tuesday, Mayor Chris Hart said.

Several representatives from Rocky Vista University provided information at the meeting, including Tim Anderson of the St. George office of the law firm of Jones Waldo. Anderson has been representing Rocky Vista in their search for a site for the new medical school branch.

“From a local perspective, this is one of the most, probably, profound opportunities in terms of higher education for Southern Utah that’s ever come to us,” Anderson said, “so this is a great opportunity.”

The new school will improve prospects for recruiting students to Southern Utah University and Dixie State University, Anderson said. It will also have a profound effect on students high school age and younger throughout southwestern Utah.

“I think a lot more students are going to come this direction,” Anderson said.  “It’s a major upgrade.”

There’s only one other medical school in the state, Anderson said, which is the University of Utah.

“So to have another medical school in Southern Utah is a great benefit for the entire state,” Anderson said.

The school will be located on the northeast corner of the intersection of Center Street and 200 East in Ivins, on a 30-acre parcel of land that surrounds the Southern Utah Veterans Home.

Rocky Vista has set an aggressive schedule for opening, Hart said, starting with accreditation hearings set for December in Chicago.

Construction on the 100,000-square-foot medical school is set to begin in February or March of 2016, and the first students will start classes in August 2017.

Rocky Vista will have 125 to 150 students in its first class, with the same number expected the following year. A total of up to 300 students at a time will be in training at the school.

In medical school, students are in classes for the first two years and then spend two years off campus in rotations at regional hospitals and clinics.

The final two years of the medical students’ educations are spent in residency programs to be completed at hospitals in the Rocky Mountain region, Hart said, including Utah, Colorado, Idaho and Wyoming.

Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George is not a teaching hospital and is not in a position at this time to take in residents or students on rotations, Hart said.

“My personal hope is that, over time, that becomes a possibility,” Hart said. “Because a lot of these students are going to be local; they’re going to be our own kids.”

Rocky Vista has an agreement with Dixie State University to matriculate a certain number of students into the medical school, Hart said.

“There’s going to be a definite local impact here in terms of opportunity for our own young people,” Hart said. “We will be one of only two cities in Utah with a medical school.”

Regional benefit

While Hart said he is thrilled that Ivins was selected for the medical school site, he said he believes the positive impact of the school extends to the entire region. The University of Utah only admits 80-100 students per year.

“For years, we have been exporting the majority of our students in the state of Utah, and certainly from the Dixie area here, to other states to go to medical school,” Hart said.

When a student goes elsewhere to medical school, they generally don’t come back, Hart said.

“So, essentially, we just export our brightest students to other states,” he said.

The new school will provide an opportunity for local students to study medicine here and then establish their practices in the immediate area or in the Southern Utah region. This will benefit Washington, Iron and Kane counties, Hart said.

In addition, Hart said, the medical school will bring economic benefit to the area, with students and their families living in or visiting Southern Utah. The medical school’s faculty and students will be a great addition to the area, as well, he said, enhancing the long-term caliber of education for local children by stimulating and encouraging students who may want to attend medical school.

We’re talking about some very bright people that will certainly add some strength, if you will, to our local demographic,” Hart said. “Medical school is kind of the highest of higher education – that’s what’s so exciting about this. It’s kind of as good as it gets.”

Unlike most medical schools, Rocky Vista is a for-profit company, Hart said. The Ivins school will employ 60-80 people, mostly in high-paying jobs.

Doctors of osteopathy focus on primary care, Hart said, and one of the things that brought the company to Ivins is the Veterans Home and the ability to learn about geriatric patient care.

In addition to the new building, Rocky Vista intends to acquire the Snow Canyon Clinic for immediate use as administrative offices and for clinical practice in the long term. The clinic has been essentially closed since the two doctors who owned it retired, Hart said, and having it reopen will be good for local residents.

The medical school will also work nicely with Dixie State University’s planned physician assistant program, a master’s program operated collaboratively with the University of Utah School of Medicine, Hart said.

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8 Comments

  • beacon October 7, 2015 at 10:51 pm

    When Ivins said it wanted to be a “destination” city I’m not sure this is what many had in mind. Surprising but then again perhaps not. Maybe Ivins really isn’t sure what it wants to be. Everything to everybody?

    • holger October 8, 2015 at 9:19 am

      I too am left wondering what Ivins wants to be when it grows up. The city web page touts the ability to remain at one with nature: “you can still wander and hear the whispering solitude of the delicate desert”, which seems to indicate a desire to remain small. But obviously the Mayor is thinking otherwise when gushing about the growth. I clicked on the city’s General Plan web page, http://www.ivins.com/ivins-general-plan/ , no surprise it is a blank page. With a vision like that, Ivins is destined to become the next Sandy City.

  • Susan October 8, 2015 at 8:22 am

    Non-disclosure statement? Why that, they didn’t want anyone to know? I live in Ivins and I’m pissed. Just what our little town needs is more traffic and people. Put the school somewhere else!!!!!!!!!

    • anybody home October 9, 2015 at 9:28 am

      That’s why they didn’t want anyone to know, Susan. It’s a business deal and somebody – maybe the city – is getting a nice payout for making the deal and keeping it secret. Hard for citizens to register complaints when it’s a done deal. Give it a shot anyway!

    • futuremed October 21, 2015 at 11:19 am

      Personally I’m thrilled that I might get to go to Med School in Ivins, since I grew up in St. George. I can understand the concerns over growth and crowding though, part of Dixie’s charm is the space and tranquillity. The mayor is right that the school will likely lead to more local kids being educated and building practices locally, but that can only be sustained based on a given populations needs, so local growth really means Utah growth. In other words, besides the 200 faculty and students, the Ivins population will not experience an explosion anytime soon.

      • Rainbow Dash October 21, 2015 at 1:36 pm

        I too am thrilled that the school is coming here. Not because of the increased traffic, mind you but because more people = more diversity.

      • deslimom October 30, 2015 at 11:50 pm

        You realize that only 2 years will be local and they next 2 years you will spend traveling to other cities in the west to complete rotations. This is not the norm of any medical school right now. While a single student might be ok finding rooms to rent and moving every 4-6 weeks, it will be a challenge for anyone married or has kids or wants to have a job while attending.
        I hope as you said that it helps retain doctors in the area. The lack of certain specialists here or long waits to get into doctors is one of the aspects that makes this a frustrating place to live. As someone who as had 6 doctors leave the area in 3 years, the biggest reason I have seen first hand in retaining young talented doctors is a lack of a real private school options for k-12 and keeping wives and kids happy. As someone who was married to a medical student and resident , many wives are looking forward to when their spouse is making good money and they want to be able to have the best private education for their kids and great camps and arts programs and they want to be able to have great resturants(not these gross chains in town, real chef run places), nice hair salons and more then just Dillard’s for make up and clothes. My last doctor that left the area had many frustrations with southern Utah but one was he couldn’t build a house that wasn’t a stucco box! They wouldn’t allow an all brick house on multiple building lots.

  • deslimom October 30, 2015 at 11:34 pm

    As much I we need more medical professionals in the area I am leery of a for profit medical school. As someone who was married to a medical student though years ago , a new program like this will be very challenging for years. The U of U is a teaching hospital so during your 4 years you spend almost 100% of your time in SLC ( a few student might opt to do so rural rotations by choice). This medical school in Ivins has an average debt of 222k but the Ivins location will include 2 years of having to travel and live in other cities. It will be 4-6 weeks in various large and small cities for 2 years. Loans may not cover the cost of lodging and it will be challenging for anyone married with kids to have to move from city to city. The other difficulty is finding residencies after graduating. Competition for residencies is getting harder every year. there are only so many hospital approved to have residents and so many slots. There is a reason why the U of U only takes 100 students a year. One reason is they want them to get a residency. You will be competing against the large established programs, the island medical school like Ross U. and all the foreign medical schools when trying to find a spot. While it will be tempting to some to stay local, If I was applying and I got accepted to the U of U I would go to it over Rocky Vista. I really hope that Rocky Vista will succeed because there are so many specialists needs badly in this area (neurology is one of the worst since snow canyon closed) but there will be years of figuring it out and at Rocky Vista CO location until the first class graduated due to it being a brand new for profit school, the students could not take out federal loans only private loans. I’m curious how that will work here.
    I also wonder where any out of area student will live. I really hope not only for the sake of Rocky Vista, but our overall community, some decent 1-2 bedroom apartments can be built. The rental market here is the worst I have seen and I have live in major cities like NY. Tell me were you can get a decent one bedroom apartment in a safe complex here? Maybe there are a handful here or there if you get lucky but not 650, which is the number of students projected after 4 years.

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