PROVO — Citing a need to improve the physician to patient ratio in the state, educators on Tuesday announced plans for a new medical school in Utah County, to be called the Noorda College of Osteopathic Medicine, beginning in 2021.
The school is named for the Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation, the namesake charitable organization for the Novell founder and his wife that recently committed to pay $50 million toward launching the school.
The owner of Provo's Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions, a corporation called Wasatch Educational, will be the owner and operator of the new school.
Richard Nielsen, vice president of the company, says it would prefer to build the campus in south Provo on existing East Bay Golf Course property, but that approval is still needed from the city to make that happen. Other locations throughout Utah County are also being considered. The city is likely to make a decision in two to three months, Nielsen said.
The plan is to enroll 150 students per year at Noorda College for the first four years, then 175 per year after that. Students will graduate as fully licensed general practice physicians, which is critically important for Utah's health care system that ranks second to last in the ratio of primary care physicians to residents, Nielsen said.
"We are here because we have identified this state needs 375 additional physicians every year to meet the state’s growing medical needs," he said.
Because of a lack of enrollment slots in the state, an estimated 400 students seeking to attend medical school leave Utah each year, Nielsen said. He added that 63 percent of the physicians working in Utah were recruited from out of state.
Val Hale, executive director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development, was on hand to congratulate Wasatch Educational on its announcement at a press conference Tuesday inside the Provo Town Centre.
"This is going to have a huge impact on our valley, economically and otherwise," Hale said. "Hopefully we’ll get more of them to stay here and not only go to school but to practice here."
Noorda College of Osteopathic Medicine will be the third medical school in the state. It joins the University of Utah's sprawling program and Rocky Vista University, a school that opened a campus this year in Ivins, Washington County.11 comments on this story
Wasatch Educational has been studying the feasibility of a medical school in Utah since 2010, according to Nielsen. In 2013, the group decided that such a venture could be successful and that it was the one in a position to do it, he said. Wasatch Educational secured its funding from the Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation last year after several months of negotiations.
Scott Bowles, general manager of the Provo Town Centre, said the shopping center is actively supportive of bringing the medical school to south Provo, an area of the city that he said needs "a punch in the arm" economically.
"Business attracts business," he said.
The Provo Town Centre is at the beginning of its own face-lift and restructuring, expected to take three to five years.