North Carolina AHEC Program
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UNC School of Medicine Establishes Two Regional Campuses

The expansion enables UNC to increase its medical school class size from 160 students to 170 in 2011 and to 180 in 2012 by sending some third- and fourth-year medical students to Asheville and Charlotte to complete their clinical education.

On October 19, 2010, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine announced the expansion of its medical school to two regional campuses in Asheville and Charlotte, continuing to fulfill its mission to care for the people of North Carolina.

The expansion will help combat the expected shortage of physicians in the coming years. According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, the number of providers is expected to decline by approximately 30 percent in the next decade. In contrast, there will be more people who need care for longer periods of time as the population grows and ages. Expanding the School’s presence in Asheville and Charlotte will increase UNC’s capacity to train more physicians, with a focus on training for practice in underserved areas, for which the need is most urgent.

UNC Medical School Expansion in Asheville.Photo right: Making the announcement of the expanded medical school in Asheville are, from left, Dale Fell, MD; MAHEC President & CEO Teck Penland, PhD; Ronald A. Paulus, MD; Jeffery Heck, MD; and William L. Roper, MD, MPH.

“In these tough economic times, I am pleased we have come together to maintain our commitment to caring for the people of our state,” said William L. Roper, MD, MPH, dean of the UNC School of Medicine and CEO of UNC Health Care. “We hope the exposure opportunities provided by our partners’ networks throughout the Carolinas will inspire more graduates to pursue career opportunities in underserved communities.”

The Asheville Regional Campus, now in its second year, will operate in collaboration with Mission Health System and the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC). Mission will also commit $7 million to establish a dedicated center for all medical education activities on the hospital campus. Currently, 10 medical students are enrolled at the Asheville campus, which utilizes an innovative patient-centered curriculum now being replicated across the state.

The Charlotte Regional Campus will operate in collaboration with Carolinas HealthCare System and UNC Charlotte. The campus will be located at Carolinas Medical Center, which has provided clinical education for third- and fourth-year UNC medical students for more than 40 years. Currently, 22 UNC students are enrolled at the Charlotte campus. Carolinas HealthCare will spend $4 million to renovate facilities for the medical students.

“We are grateful to our partners for engaging their resources and expertise to move health care in North Carolina forward,” said Roper. “Within these already-established training environments, we are confident that the UNC School of Medicine will continue to grow and thrive.”

The expansion plan was originally developed in 2007 and included a full expansion of the school to 230 students. This plan was put on hold for two years due to economic hardship. Full expansion to 230 students will require additional capital and operational investments from the state.

Reprinted with permission from UNC Health Care News.