Liberty planning osteopathic medical school

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Print this page by Heather B. Hayes

Liberty University plans to raise the number of medical schools in Virginia to seven.

The Virginia Tobacco Commission has given Liberty a $12 million grant to build its proposed Center for Medical and Health Sciences. The school will train osteopathic physicians, nurse practitioners, physicians’ assistants, nursing educators, laboratory clinicians and public health specialists.

Ronald Godwin, Liberty’s provost, notes that about 2,000 Liberty students already take courses that fall under the umbrella of health sciences. “All of those different areas of study are growing so large in enrollment that we felt it was time for the health sciences programs to have an official school and to give them a specific home at the university,” he says.

Having a health sciences complex will enable Liberty to expand the types of programs it can offer, Godwin says. The medical school will specialize in educating doctors in osteopathic medicine, a branch of medicine that focuses on family practice and primary care.  Liberty also will offer master’s degree programs in biomedical science, public health and nursing administration and a bachelor’s degree program in clinical laboratory science.

The Center for Medical and Health Sciences will be housed in a 105,000-square-foot facility that will be constructed on Liberty-owned property in Campbell County across from the Lynchburg Regional Airport. Liberty is matching the Tobacco Commission’s grant out of its own funds to pay for the building. Godwin says, however, the school will apply for additional grants next year from the Tobacco Commission — and match those funds — to help pay to equip laboratories and classrooms.

Design and construction planning already is under way, and officials are actively searching for a dean for the School for Health Sciences and a dean for the School of Medicine. The building is scheduled to open for classes in fall 2013.

Currently, more than 60 percent of the region surrounding Liberty University is deemed medically underserved.  Godwin projects that in five years, the Center for Medical and Health Sciences will be turning out thousands of graduates each year to help fill that gap. Because of the Tobacco Commission funding, students from communities in the tobacco region will receive a 5 percent discount on tuition.

Virginia’s current medical schools include the Eastern Virginia School of Medicine, VCU School of Medicine, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine and Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, which opened last fall. Bristol, Tenn.-based King College plans to open a medical and health sciences school in Abingdon in 2014.

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