St. Cloud medical school campus moving forward

Plans move forward to open U of M Medical School campus in St. Cloud

Plans move forward to open U of M Medical School campus in St. Cloud

Plans are moving forward to open a University of Minnesota Medical School campus in St. Cloud in partnership with CentraCare. The state Legislature approved providing $15 million to support the project this session.

CentraCare hopes to transform its 60,000-square-foot administrative services building on the campus. The goal is to have the first class start in 2025.

“Which is two years away, so we need to have facilities, programs, faculty, staff, support services, all of that ready to go,” said CEO Dr. Ken Holmen.

He explained those conversations are underway with the U of M.

CentraCare estimates construction and renovation of the building will cost $18 million. While the healthcare system requested the full amount, the Legislature approved $5 million for the design and left the door open to future requests.

“I think we’ll have to have our ducks in a row later this year and start construction/renovation early next year,” said Dr. Holmen.

Lawmakers also provided an additional $10 million for the program itself, which will be used to establish the medical school, expand CentraCare’s residency programs and add a research component.

According to Chief Financial Officer Mike Blair, it will likely cost $100 million to fund the whole program over the next 10 years, with $20 million expected for the medical school and another $20 million for the expanded residency program. The company anticipates it will cost $10 million to establish the research program, $20 million for housing, and another $30 million in scholarship and loan forgiveness programs.

It will be paid for through government funding, philanthropic donations, and CentraCare operational dollars, according to Holmen.

“A lot of the work has been trying to understand the logistical part of it, the buildings needed, the personnel needed, the curriculum needed,” said Dr. Shailey Prasad of the work over the last few months.

Dr. Prasad is a professor and the associate vice president for Global and Rural Health at the U of M Medical School.

“In terms of the training, it will be just as good as the training we have here at the main campus,” said Dr. Prasad.

He explained the four-year St. Cloud program will focus specifically on rural healthcare. They hope to enroll about 25 students to start.

“I wish we had done this 10 years ago,” said Dr. Prasad. “The need for rural healthcare is quite strong and rural healthcare across the spectrum – physicians, nurses, physical therapists, pharmacists, you name it – we need all of it.”

According to Dr. Holmen, a third of rural physicians will retire in the next five years.

Dr. Randy Rice, a family medicine provider at Gateway Family Health Clinic in Moose Lake, is considering his own retirement. He’s been in practice for nearly 30 years.

“I’ve been saying the better part of five years, ‘I’m three to five years of retiring,’” said Dr. Rice. “It keeps getting put off a little bit.”

His career has always focused on rural medicine. Over the last 10 to 15 years, however, he said it’s become harder to attract young physicians to Greater Minnesota.

“I liked the small-town pace; I like being interested in doing a little bit of everything. In family medicine, you’re pretty much it in the small communities,” said Dr. Rice. “I think people come out of school and feel a bit intimidated by not having all of the specialists there to back you up, so you want to have programs there to build that confidence.”

He benefited from the University of Minnesota’s rural physician associates program and hopes the St. Cloud campus will create a pipeline for the future.

“There’s a lot of need out there,” said Dr. Rice. “We want to make sure we have people to step in and take over for us.”