State board approves independent medical program at FAU
By Dale M. King
BOCA RATON – Florida Atlantic University is just one step away from establishing an independent medical education program on its Boca Raton campus.
The Florida Board of Governors (BOG), which oversees state universities, unanimously approved the program recently. It still needs the OK from the state legislature.
The doctor of medicine degree program was approved by FAU’s Board of Trustees in February as well as by two BOG committees prior to obtaining approval by the BOG’s full board.
“Today is an exciting day for Florida Atlantic University,” said John Pritchett, FAU’s interim president. “FAU’s medical education program has a strong foundation and will continue to position itself as a leader in state-of-the art medical education and groundbreaking research.”
School officials said the new FAU medical education program will employ a unique continuity medicine curriculum whose characteristics include a smaller, more interactive learning environment; interdisciplinary and community collaboration; patient-centered, self-directed learning; small learning communities; continuity of care, patient safety, and comprehensive, chronic disease management; early introduction of clinical training in multiple community-based hospital and outpatient settings; and a state-of-the-art medical simulation center.
In addition to offering the M.D. degree, FAU proposes to offer a dual M.D./biomedical sciences Ph.D. option in partnership with the Scripps Institute Kellogg School of Science and Technology, which would confer a doctorate degree. FAU estimates that up to one fourth of its M.D. students could take advantage of this option.
FAU’s medical education program will be housed at the Charles E. Schmidt College of Biomedical Science on the Boca Raton campus. Student and residency training will be made available throughout hospitals in Palm Beach and Broward counties.
The target date for the inaugural class to begin is fall 2011, with total enrollment of the program reaching 246 students by 2014.
The new effort required the dismantling of a previous plan that involved the University of Miami and was intended to involve Boca Raton Community Hospital.
FAU originally inked an agreement with UM in 2004 to allow students to attend medical education classes at FAU for the first two years of their training, and finish the final two years at the UM campus in Miami.
In February 2006, Boca Raton Community Hospital came on board with plans to build a medical center on the FAU campus – one that would replace its current facility on Meadows Road and allow the Boca-based university to offer a four-year medical program. After graduation, FAU students would have interned at BRCH.
The so-called “tri-partite affiliation agreement” fell apart after Boca Hospital ran into financial problems and, as a result, pulled out.
After that, said Pritchett, the FAU administration began examining alternative strategies to continue the medical education program. Earlier this year, it terminated the affiliation with UM.
He said the decision by FAU to seek approval from the state legislature and the State Board of Governors to continue the MD program independently was one of three options on the table. Pritchett said the university also considered extending its pact with UM or affiliating with another med school.
What tipped the scale, he said, was an agreement reached with Scripps Research Institute “to partner with FAU on a joint degree program that would offer students an MD from FAU and a Ph.D. from Scripps.”
Termination of the agreement with UM was needed to launch the program with Scripps, which is located on FAU’s campus in Jupiter.
FAU says it can offer the new program with no new money from the state, using tuition and $12 million in state funding it already receives for its UM partnership.
Pritchett also said the new program “will be operated without the need for any additional legislative appropriations.”