Estimated $75M for medical school, but no reductions to current programs, Lahey says

Joe Pelletier

Quinnipiac’s medical school will cost an estimated $75 million over the next seven or eight years, but according to President John Lahey, no current University programs will be affected, no money will be pulled from the endowment, and no loans will be taken out.

“We’re not living beyond our means,” Lahey said in a Chronicle interview on Thursday. “We never do.”

The money will come from a reserve fund that has been building since the “belt-tightening” of the past few years, Lahey said. The fund currently contains about $35 million, and Lahey expects $50 or $60 million by the end of the academic year.

Media credit: Joe Pelletier

“By then, we will pretty much have the cash in hand,” Lahey said. “So there will be no reduction in any other area of the institution.”

Forty million dollars will go toward renovations of the North Haven campus, which will begin this summer. Another $35 million from the University will subsidize salaries and expenses until the medical school begins running at its 500-student capacity.

The most immediate steps include finding a dean for the medical school, which Lahey hopes to accomplish this summer. The dean and additional administrators will then build a curriculum, which is to focus on primary care and global health.

A planned synthesis of the medical school and the Albert Schweitzer Institute will allow medical students to spend time working with primary care in developing countries, Lahey said.

“We think that can be a special niche for us,” Lahey said. “Given our Schweitzer Institute, we can give our medical students some unique experiences that other medical schools couldn’t do.”

Associate Professor of Nursing Lynn Price, chairperson of the nursing department, said the focus on primary care was appropriate, especially with Quinnipiac’s connection to developing countries.

“It’s very forward-looking,” Price said. “Global health starts with primary care. We need to be preventing things like diabetes, not treating it.”

Renovations of the first floor of the North Haven campus’ Building 2, which will house the medical school, will begin this summer. The University will take control of the second and third floor in October 2012, where it expects to have a year to complete renovations before its first incoming class.

One of the “major challenges,” according to Lahey, will be the search for a health system clinical partner, which the University hopes to nail down in the next six months. Lahey is on the Board of Trustees at the Yale-New Haven Hospital, however, the hospital is currently the teaching hospital of Yale’s medical school.

“Most of their resources are taken up by Yale’s medical school,” Lahey said. “If we are going to do something with the Yale-New Haven Hospital system, it will most likely be [with] the Bridgeport hospital and the Greenwich hospital.

“There are a lot of resources in Connecticut,” Lahey said, though he did not rule out a New York hospital system.

While the president understood that Quinnipiac’s medical school would probably start off at “the bottom of the pecking order,” he was hopeful that the school would quickly distinguish itself.

“We’re not looking just to have a medical school,” Lahey said. “We want a first-rate medical school.”