Quinnipiac Opens State-of-the-Art Medical School

The interior plans for Quinnipiac University's Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine.

By Turlough McConnell, Contributor
August / September 2013

The new Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut is attracting students in primary care medicine.

Dr. Bruce Koeppen didn’t just do a double take in 2009 when he first read the announcement that Quinnipiac University was planning to build a medical school. He took action. The Yale-educated Koeppen, then dean for academic affairs at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, called Quinnipiac president John L. Lahey and proposed himself as the school’s founding dean.

“I knew the time was right for Quinnipiac to provide the best medical education,” said Lahey, a 2012 Irish America Hall of Fame inductee who has served for more than a decade on the boards of several major medical institutions and corporations. “And I knew that Bruce Koeppen was the person most qualified to realize that vision,” he added.

Koeppen welcomes his first students to the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine on Quinnipiac’s North Haven, Connecticut campus in August.

“Building a medical school made a lot of sense for us,” Lahey said, noting that the university already has an emphasis on health professions programs including nursing, physician assistant, physical therapy, diagnostic imaging, occupational therapy, anesthesiologist assistant and radiologist assistant, among others. “Now is the time to combine these strengths for a more collaborative, compassionate and efficient health care system. It is time to add the doctor,” he said.

And Koeppen relished the opportunity to develop a program of medical education for the 21st century that would integrate formal classroom knowledge with clinical experience and a curriculum crafted to teach the fundamentals of clinical, behavioral and social sciences necessary to deliver world-class patient care.

He believes the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac, named for the world-renowned medical illustrator whose drawings and atlases have served students for decades, will prepare its graduates for a wide spectrum of career options.

Named a “Healthcare Hero” by Business New Haven, Koeppen has been praised for his work overseeing the development of the new facility, which will be formally dedicated in September, as well as for its innovative curriculum and its stellar founding faculty members. They are renowned researchers and experts in their respective medical specialties, but their primary focus is to teach medical students.

Developing a medical school at Quinnipiac was spurred, in part, by a 2006 nationwide call from the Association of American Medical Colleges for a 30 percent increase in medical school enrollment by 2015. Predicting an alarming shortage of 150,000 doctors by 2025, almost a third in primary care, the AAMC called for the creation of new schools and expanded classes at existing schools

Retirement of baby boomer physicians, coupled with an aging baby boomer population, a preference among many younger physicians to work part time, and the prospect of adding millions to the insurance rolls under the government’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 are contributing reasons for the projected shortage.

With this urgent need for well-educated and highly trained physicians, the focus on medical education has never been greater. For the first time since the 1990s, there are now 18 medical schools in the United States in various stages of accreditation and development; 11 new schools of medicine have opened in the last five years.

Quinnipiac’s new medical school was designed to foster opportunities for interprofessional health care education. The 104-acre campus in North Haven (just a few miles from the university’s Mount Carmel and York Hill campuses in Hamden) also serves as home to the School of Health Sciences, the School of Nursing, the School of Education and other graduate programs. The School of Medicine is housed in the $100 million, 325,000-square-foot Center for Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences.

With the addition of medical students, the university will have a rich environment to train all its health care students in a new model that Koeppen compares to the pit crew of a NASCAR race team. “Each member of the crew has a specific expertise and responsibility for the care of the car. Substitute patient for car and you’re looking at a team of experts collaborating to care for a patient,” he said.

From a pool of several thousand applicants, the medical school’s admissions office sent acceptance letters to fill the 60 spots for the first year. Attendance is planned to grow to a maximum of 500 students over the next five years.

These 60 will be the first to use the all-digital “smart” classrooms, examination rooms and labs. The building has exam rooms, a gross anatomy lab, clinical skills assessment rooms, two simulated operating rooms, study rooms, a library, a fitness center and an auditorium. Students will do clinical work at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in nearby Bridgeport, the Netter school’s primary clinical partner. Other partners include MidState Medical Center in Meriden and Middlesex Hospital in Middletown, both in Connecticut.

Koeppen is particularly proud of the Medical Student Home program, or MESH, which is central to the school’s curriculum. MESH places new medical students into a professional setting only a few months into their first semester, primarily with doctors who specialize in general internal medicine, family medicine and general pediatrics.

“Part of our mission is to train the primary care workforce of the future,” Koeppen said. “By placing our students in these sites, they develop a positive mentoring relationship with their physician that will foster their interest, maintain their interest, and hopefully cause the student to seriously consider a career in primary care medicine,” he added. Other areas of emphasis will be global public health and rehabilitative medicine.

Under Koeppen, the school has already attracted well-known faculty members including Dr. Barbara R. Pober, an internationally recognized geneticist. Pober, a professor of medical sciences, comes to Quinnipiac from Harvard Medical School, where she was a professor of pediatrics and a geneticist at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Abayomi Akanji, a professor of medical sciences, will teach clinical chemistry and endocrinology. Akanji previously was a visiting professor of metabolic medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University. Other health professionals at Quinnipiac with Irish American links include Thomas C. Brady, professor of biomedical sciences, and Karen M. Myrick, assistant professor of nursing.

Fewer than 100 universities have both law and medical schools, further enhancing Quinnipiac’s national reputation. The university, founded in 1929, has 8,500 students enrolled in more than 70 undergraduate and graduate programs in business, communications, education, engineering, health sciences, law, medicine, nursing, and the arts and sciences.

Quinnipiac consistently ranks among the top regional universities in the North in U.S. News and World Report’s American Best Colleges issue and recently was ranked second in the category of universities that have made the most promising and innovative changes in academics, faculty, campus or facilities.

Of this latest addition to the growing university, Koeppen says, “If you aspire to be the kind of physician this nation needs in the coming decades, you will find no better place to accomplish your dream than here at the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine. We welcome all applicants who share our vision for the future.”

About Frank H. Netter, MD

The School of Medicine is named for the late Dr. Frank H. Netter, a world-renowned medical illustrator whose drawings and atlases have educated
medical students for decades.

Born in Manhattan in 1906, Netter was, in his 20s, a successful commercial artist whose work appeared in national magazines. His family, however, urged him to study medicine. As a medical student, he drew as a means to study, producing visual representations to help him understand and recall material. After a brief practice as a general surgeon, he traded his scalpel for a paintbrush and began a prolific career as a medical illustrator. In 1989 he published his landmark Atlas of Human Anatomy, which has been translated into 11 languages and is widely used by undergraduate medical students.

A major gift from Barbara and the late Edward Netter, Frank Netter’s first cousin, pays tribute to “Medicine’s Michelangelo” in the naming of the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University.

One Response to “Quinnipiac Opens State-of-the-Art Medical School”

  1. Dr. Pullen says:

    As a family physician, admittedly far from Conneticuit, in an area short on primary care recruitment of new family doctors has been nearly impossible for the last several years. Hopefully this type of school will add to the pool of FPs in 7 years.

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