The possibility of a for-profit medical school locating in Rhode Island has Mayor Scott Avedisian thinking Warwick wouldn’t only be an ideal site because of its access to modes of transportation, but with Kent Hospital it could become a nexus for medical research and services.
“I think that’s incredibly exciting,” Avedisian said of R3 Education’s proposal to locate a school of osteopathic medicine comprising 250,000 square feet – about a quarter the size of Warwick Mall – in Rhode Island. The State House of Representatives approved the plan last week, but in order for the for-profit school to operate in Rhode Island, the program needs the approval of the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education. Greg Pare, director of communications for the Senate, said Brown University has raised some concerns about the bill, and the parties are currently meeting to discuss possible changes. A timeline on the Senate’s consideration of the bill is still indeterminate.
Asked whether he thought the school could provide a key tenant for the Warwick Station Development District, Avedisian offered a different perspective. He sees the opportunity of R3 entering into a partnership with Kent for training and research that could result in a rezoning in the Toll Gate Road area followed by related medical industry development. Furthermore, he envisions CCRI, which is already working with the hospital, and Salve Regina University that will open a Warwick satellite in the fall in Metro Center, as contributing to the overall plan.
“A medical school would be tremendous,” he said, “It would be a great development here.”
The mayor said he has talked with an R3 representative and plans to pursue his ideas with hospital president Sandra Coletta.
In addition to a medical school answering a demand for more physicians, Avedisian said the school would serve to qualify those who have met the education requirements but have yet to be certified.
Based in Devens, Mass., R3 operates osteopathic schools in the British West Indies, Caribbean and Cayman Islands. All are accredited by the same institutions that accredit universities such as Brown, R3 spokesman Jenn Bramley said last week. The new school would seek accreditation from the Commission on Osteopathic College and Accreditation and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, R3 President Steven Roger said in an interview last week.
Roger said he selected Rhode Island for the school because he is familiar with the state and its proximity to major population hubs. He sees the school creating an estimated 200 to 300 full-time, high paying jobs in addition to temporary construction jobs. The school would house approximately 1,200 students. In addition, he said, the school will serve to fill the demand for physicians while providing that education at a discount from non-profit institutions. He put tuition costs at $125,000 for four years.
"Upon legislative approval to move forward with this project, RISOM will be considering locations throughout the state, including Warwick, which offers many advantages, including access to public transportation and local hospitals,” said Roger in a statement. “Wherever we are located in the state, we will give preference to Rhode Island students. We look forward to working with all the community hospitals to provide access to quality primary care doctors in Rhode Island."
The for-profit model has met opposition from the Rhode Island Association of Independent Colleges. Association President Daniel Egan said last week the state has had a 30-year ban on for-profit institutions and fears making a change would jeopardize student welfare and educational standards. He called the for-profit sector “predatory” with their first interest to serve their stockholders.