CentraCare board approves plan to build medical school campus in St. Cloud

A plan to create a new medical school focused on getting more doctors and nurses in rural Minnesota took another step forward Thursday.

CentraCare’s Board of Directors on Thursday voted unanimously in support of a plan for a medical school campus in St. Cloud.

The plan is a partnership between CentraCare and the University of Minnesota Medical School.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS highlighted the proposal, which would create the first new medical school in the state in the last 50 years, last month.

Officials say the new school would be a remedy for the physician shortage that not only is already affecting rural communities but is expected to get worse. CentraCare says more than one-third of rural providers plan to leave the workforce by 2027, so a training and education expansion is needed to fill that gap.

“The best solution to address the physician shortage in rural Minnesota is to train new physicians in the communities in which we want them to serve,” said Dr. Ken Holmen, CentraCare’s president and CEO. “This partnership will establish the educational, professional and career development opportunities for the next generation of rural health care physicians.”

While specifics about the campus are still being developed, officials say it could open as early as 2025. CentraCare says the first class would likely be 24 medical students, but that would grow to around 80 students when the program reaches maturity.

“Minnesotans deserve access to high-quality care, regardless of where they live,” said Steve Laraway, the chairperson of CentraCare’s board, said in a statement. “We’re excited about the opportunity to train future medical professionals in St. Cloud to support the health of people living in our rural communities. This investment in the future will extend beyond health care to improve the economic base of our rural communities.”

The U of M Board of Regents gave unanimous support to a nonbinding statement of interest for the plan on Friday.

“Now that both boards have supported moving forward with the project, the next step is for a team comprised of people from both organizations to build a plan to secure accreditation for the new program,” CentraCare told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.