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.”
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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