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UA, ASU announce joint biomedical campus in downtown Phoenix


In a gesture of unprecedented collaboration, the presidents of ASU and UA joined Governor Napolitano in announcing joint plans to build the Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix, to function as an extension of the UA College of Medicine.

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Big-picture plans unveiled this week to extend the University of Arizona's medical school into an expansive partnership with Arizona State University mark the end of decades-long conjectures about an independent ASU medical school and the beginning of an era of major collaboration between ASU and UA health care programs.

At a press conference held yesterday at the state Capitol, Governor Janet Napolitano announced the Valley medical school extension, accompanied by Arizona Board of Regents President Gary Stuart, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, and university presidents Peter Likins (UA) and Michael Crow (ASU).

"In the old Arizona, it would have been unheard of for these two universities to collaborate on such a high level," Napolitano was quoted as saying in the Arizona Daily Star. "In the new Arizona, rivalry is left to the athletic arena."

Under its formal name, the Phoenix Biomedical Campus of the Arizona University System will combine the efforts of the UA College of Medicine and College of Pharmacy with the ASU College of Nursing and both universities' linkages to the Translational Genomics Research Institute. The Board of Regents is expected to ratify the memorandum of understanding at its August meeting, and presidents Crow and Likins intend to present a more detailed plan in January 2005.

Keith Joiner, dean of the University of Arizona College of Medicine, called the collaboration "the model of schools for the future" in the Star. "This has never happened in American medicine," he said in reference to a medical school in one city to create another four-year campus in a much larger metropolitan area. "All the medical schools in the country are going to be paying attention to this."

Valley and university officials say that the landmark collaboration will be beneficial for the entire medical and economic community in Arizona. Following a recent trend of statewide and international collaboration in the biotechnology and biomedical field, the hope is that the medical school's more unified front will attract even more research dollars and biotech innovators to the Valley.

The Phoenix Biomedical Campus answers years of concern about the lack of a medical school presence in the most populous county in Arizona, the second-fastest growing state in the U.S. and home of the fifth-largest city nationally.

According to Stuart, it also fills a direct and growing need in the Phoenix metropolitan area. "We need more doctors and more research. A good place to do that is in an urban center with nine hospitals and 4 million people," Stuart said in the Tucson Citizen.

UA medical students, who have been able to work in Valley teaching hospitals for their third and fourth years since 1992, will now be able to complete their first two years of schooling in the Valley area, as well. UA President Peter Likins said that 40 percent of current UA medical students conduct some part of their clinical studies in the Phoenix area.

But the Phoenix Biomedical Campus promises to go beyond a traditional medical school; officials anticipate it will quickly become a hub for Arizona's growing biomedical and biotech industry. The campus will augment the efforts of Valley-based research projects like the Arizona Biodesign Institute at ASU and the Arizona Biomedical Collaborative, a joint $17 million project among the three Arizona universities. Among its advantages are joint faculty appointments, inter-university research, and state-of-the-art lab space near teaching hospitals and TGen. In addition, ASU plans to couple its specialization in bioinformatics with UA's strengths in telemedicine.

Crow underscored the win-win potential of the joint biomedical campus, saying it "will benefit both universities and enable them to better meet the health care needs of our community."

The UA medical school extension and partnership is a product of intensive negotiations and compromises among ASU, UA, the Arizona Board of Regents, and Valley government officials.

"For this to be successful, it has to be a shared opportunity," Phoenix Councilman Greg Stanton said in the Arizona Republic. "In order to have long-term success, they are going to have to give in on short-term desires."

Though the satellite medical school is slated to be built on a donated land tract of the former Phoenix Union High School campus in downtown Phoenix, the plan is still largely in its visionary stage, lacking specifics such as a proposed budget, funding sources, or a timeline. The medical school's building would cost about $150 million.

"We're not talking about tomorrow morning here, but we're defining the longer term future for medical education in Phoenix," Likins told the Star.

For more information:

" Medical school mysteries; ASU-UA venture has few specifics," Arizona Republic, 08/10/2004

"UA, ASU teaming for new med school," Arizona Daily Star, 08/10/2004

"Phoenix gets UA med school branch," Tucson Citizen, 08/10/2004

"Universities will build joint campus in Phoenix," East Valley Tribune, 08/09/2004

"Med School going downtown," Arizona Republic, 08/09/2004