Central Appalachia will have a new medical school when King School of Medicine opens in Abingdon, VA in a few years. The school will both create jobs and economic development, but also help to address a shortage of medical professionals and services in the region. Bristol News has the story.
ABINGDON, Va. —
Medical students will likely begin attending classes here in 2013 or 2014,said Friday.
That’s when the new King School ofis expected to open in the business park off Interstate 81’s Exit 14 in .
Officials from the, and the town of gathered Friday to sign an agreement detailing their commitment to the project, which, according to the , could ultimately have an annual economic impact of .
The announcement that the project is moving forward comes two years afterfirst articulated his vision for a medical school in Southwest Virginia – and about a year after the town and county offered financial support if was chosen as its location.
On Friday, the town and county formally committed to help fund the project, which is also expected to receivefrom the .
The county and town each agreed to committo the project, with the county’s contribution being given in cash and the town’s coming in the form of 36 acres of land and .
also has an option to purchase 15 adjoining acres from .
When thevoted to approve the agreement Friday, responded with one word: “Hallelujah.”
“There’s been a lot of challenges along the way that have been dealt with,” she said. “It’s kind of been like a roller-coaster ride.”
When thefollowed with its unanimous approval, the vote was met by applause.
“It’s been a long two years,” said, “but a great day.”
said the deal includes requirements that the must meet before any public money is released – including a seven-year operating budget, updated as it goes forward, and meeting necessary milestones in the accreditation process.
said the former in downtown will not be used for the project.
Food City recently announced plans to use thefor its new corporate headquarters, and said Friday that the new office building will likely open in 2013. said progress will probably start next month to prepare the old hospital building for demolition, with construction of Food City’s new building to begin in early 2012.
said the medical school announcement marked the start of “a new era in the history of Southwestern Virginia.”
Two years ago, he said, he was as shocked as everyone else when theendorsed the project, which then seemed like “pie in the sky.”
But with the potential to impact the region even a century into the future, town and county officials started talking about how they could attract the.
“Given the scale of this venture, it’s probably remarkable that it came together in just two years,” he said.
said the town could expect to see some 200 jobs and in annual revenue from the project. He expressed pride in local leaders for thinking far into the future.
According to the, the town will realize a economic impact to the town from construction alone.
“In challenging economic times, it is tempting for community leaders to think small,” he said, referencing the fast-restaurants, big-box stores and truck stops that have presented themselves as controversial economic development projects in recent years. “What is far more difficult and far more productive is for community leadership to not be an ordinary place.”
With the medical school project, he said, town and county leaders have boldly taken hold of their destiny and resolved to make it a place defined by the arts, science, technology and medicine.
said the is the latest positive announcement for the community after the openings of a new hospital and regional artisan center along with the announcement that Food City will build its new headquarters in .
“Through this agreement we are forever linked within making perhaps the most significant decision either of us has made in the history of our county and our town,” said.
She said construction of theis likely to bring into the county and 661 jobs. When the is up and running, she said, the county is likely to see the addition of 250 jobs and, within seven years, a annual impact.
According to the, in 10 years the county could see 489 direct and indirect jobs created by the , with 108 jobs created for .
“Studies show that potential economic impact for the region increases to as much asonce the , an affiliated research campus and a medical corridor that is likely to develop around the reach their full productivity by 2035,” according to a statement from the . “Other benefits include new neighborhoods, schools, , and commercial opportunities to support the anticipated increase in population.”
said part of the school’s purpose will be to help address the anticipated shortage of 6,500 doctors by 2020 in the southern highlands region of Central Appalachia.
That region includes more than 40 medically underserved counties and communities in Southwest Virginia, Northeast Tennessee, Eastern Kentucky, Western North Carolina and Southern West Virginia.
The vision,said, includes the chance to train medical providers committed to serving in rural areas.
“Our goal is to complement what the[in , Tenn.] is doing … and to bring even more students to the region and to encourage them to practice medicine when they graduate in the region,” he said.
He said a part of the planning process also includes a network of clinics, operated on a not-for-profit model, to both train students and improve health-care access.
These, he said, will work with existing clinics and health-care providers to improve medical care access in areas with an expressed need.
, of the , said her facility will partner with King and to create a unique educational opportunity.
Students in the region will have the ability to graduate from high school, attend the, finish their bachelor’s degree through the and then go on to medical school, all within the same complex, she said.
“I believe things happen for a reason,” said, echoing Fowlkes’ commitment to the way the three educational institutions might work together. “The importance of education has never been more critical than it is now, and the value of community members working together has never been more vital to our growth than it is today.”
“And right here in our region, the spotlight on medical education and the future of health care is brighter than it ever has been because ofand what it is accomplishing in its move today.”
The medical school project also marks a new moment in town-county relations, after a planned joint project not so far in the past – the development of a joint sports complex – ended in a lawsuit when negotiations fell apart.
“I think the future is bright for our working relationship between the town and county,” said. “We all need each other in order to survive.”
said town officials never could have predicted a decade ago when they invested in the park – primarily as a place to locate a small business incubator – that it would some day be home to a medical school.
“I do believe the town is going to be developing an additional business andin the immediate future,” he said.