MANKATO — As the pre-accreditation process for the proposed medical school in Gaylord nears, the team behind it shed further light on the project at a panel discussion in Mankato Tuesday.

The Minnesota College of Osteopathic Medicine would be the first of its kind in Minnesota, with the two existing medical schools in the state being for students pursuing the more common doctor of medicine degrees. Gaylord’s old Sibley East school building would be renovated to create the new college.

The project’s administrators and faculty shared curriculum specifics and their collaborative plans during a luncheon at Minnesota State University’s summit on the future of health care Tuesday.

Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee, dean of the proposed school, said afterward the project remains on track ahead of the pre-accreditation meeting in late April.

“If indeed we’re pre-accredited in April when we meet with them, then we can expect to open as early as the fall of 2020,” she said.

The team is in the meantime finalizing the curriculum, developing clinical affiliations for students to pursue clerkships and residencies, hiring faculty and appointing adjuncts. A slide showing potential clinical affiliations included dozens of hospitals and clinics across the state or in South Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Washington D.C., Missouri and Puerto Rico.

Area facilities included Mankato Clinic, Sleepy Eye Medical Center and Madelia Community Hospital. Ross-Lee said defining the exact curriculum at each location will come next.

“We’ve got the relationships," she said. "Now the work starts."

The medical college’s first class would have 75 students with plans to expand to 150 over time. Students' first two years would involve studying anatomy using 3D technology rather than cadavers. The panelists also noted simulation labs will be constructed, while lectures would be condensed into shorter, 18-minute "O-Med Talks," a play off of TED Talks, which would be recorded for students to refer to later.

The project is meant to address physician shortages in rural areas, as statistics suggest Minnesota lags behind the national average in medical students per 100,000 people. Further research shared Tuesday showed most active physicians practice medicine in the state where they attended medical school and completed their residencies.

Dr. John Sealey, the college’s associate dean of clinical education, said one of the goals for the Gaylord project would be to retain more doctors in Minnesota. By introducing students to rural communities, the hope would be that some end up staying after their schooling. 

“We want a person to leave that (rural) community, go to college, train and go to medical school in an innovative environment, and come right back to that community,” Sealey said.

Collaborations between the college and Minnesota State University are also in the works. Teams involved in the Gaylord planning toured MSU’s Clinical Sciences Building several times, noting the simulation technology.

Kris Retherford, dean of MSU’s college of allied health and nursing, said she could see a medical school in the region greatly benefiting undergraduates in Mankato.

“We view this as an opportunity for our health and biomedical sciences undergraduate students to be a great pipeline to a regional school of medicine,” she said.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArolaMFP.

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