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U Of I Pitches Urbana-Based College Of Medicine

University of Illinois / illinois.edu

The University of Illinois Urbana campus has been developing plans for a new engineering-focused College of Medicine that would utilize new engineering trends like “big data” and bioengineering. But now, not one, but two plans will be sent along to the Board Of Trustees.

The trustees of the Healthcare System Committee heard Chancellor Phyllis Wise’s pitch for a new College of Medicine based at the U of I Urbana campus. Speaking during a visit to Taiwan, Wise said that several letters of support back up her argument that to make this new engineering focus work in a medical school, you need to start from scratch.

"To change the traditional trajectory of a college of medicine is a very difficult task, particularly if the college of medicine is a large component of the university."

One proposal from the Urbana campus would create a new College of Medicine separate from the existing Chicago-based one. Carle Health Systems and the College of Engineering would collaborate on the new institution. Carle senior vice-president Stephanie Beevers says preliminary discussions are already revealing exciting possibilities.

"We’ve got cardio-thoracic surgeons at our campus actually talking to the engineers over here on how to improve patients’ wellness and recuperation after having a heart attack, for example. We’ve got others that are talking about how could we improve bariatric surgery by looking at devices, and how to utilize them differently as we move into the future."

The U of I’s existing College of Medicine has an alternate proposal. Dean Dimitri Azar says while the Urbana plan would create a small college with about 50 med students, a program at the Chicago campus cost less and serve more people.

"This is an opportunity for the roughly 1,300 medical students to benefit from this, and benefit from the engineering strength, not only in Chicago, but also in Urbana."

Meanwhile, a proposal from the current College of Medicine promises to be more de-centralized than previous med-school operations --- including formation of a bio-engineering institute based at the Urbana Campus.  If trustees approve the study of both proposals, the results would be ready for their March 2015 meeting.