NORTH HAVEN — The state’s third medical school opened its doors to students last week, the first to do so since UConn’s medical school started in 1968.
Quinnipiac University’s Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine in North Haven is in its second week of classes for 60 future physicians. Classrooms, mock operating rooms and offices are located in the former Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield building on Bassett Road, renovated at a cost of $100 million.
The new graduate school will help address what’s projected to be a nationwide lack of physicians, said Dean Bruce Koeppen.
Baby boomers, moving toward retirement, are more likely to use health care than previous generations and often have at least one serious medical condition. Forty percent of physicians are also expected to retire in the next 10 years, according to Koeppen.
“There’s a national shortage of physicians that’s predicted only to get worse,” he said.
Bill Berger, a 42-year-old Cheshire resident, worked for two decades at the Agricultural Experiment State in New Haven before deciding he wanted to be a physician. The biology major said he worked in food and environmental safety.
“I wanted more of a personal connection with the people I’m helping,” Berger said.
Quinnipiac’s new school appealed to him since its professors were focused on teaching rather than research.
Berger said he has yet to pick a specialty and is waiting to see “what speaks to me the most.”
Stephen Wikel, senior associate dean for scholarship, said the school was intentional about finding faculty interested in education. At many medical schools, teaching is only a small portion of the duties of faculty.
“We really are looking for people who are interested in teaching and being true medical educators,” Wikel said.
During the search to fill 22 positions, 967 applications were considered.
Quinnipiac bought the 104-acre property in 2007 for $40 million. The campus hosts the schools of health sciences, nursing, medicine and education. Quinnipiac’s law school will also move to North Haven from Hamden next fall so that graduate studies will be consolidated.
Departments have been moving into the renovated building since 2009, starting with the School of Health Sciences. The School of Nursing began in 2011 after expanding from a department within health sciences.
Some of the latest and most cutting-edge technologies are included in the new medical school building, Wikel said. Two full operating rooms are available for mock surgeries, complete with $250,000 mannequins which mimic the human body and which can be controlled by a professor in an adjoining room. Those mannequins can be used to test students by going into cardiac arrest, for example.
Other rooms have long tables with hook-ups for eight computers. Those computers’ screens can be projected onto a larger screen at the end of the table.
Wikel said the school also spent $300,000 getting some of the highest quality anatomical models of various human organs and structures.
The new school received nearly 2,000 applications for 60 slots according to Koeppen. Class sizes are set to increase to 120 in three years, and the school’s already received more than 3,500 applications for next fall. Annual tuition is $49,650.
About 50,000 students apply to medical schools which accepted 20,000 last year nationally, Koeppen said
In addition to the 22 faculty at the medical school, there are about 300 doctors from area hospitals who will give occasional lectures at the North Haven campus or work with students in the field. Area hospitals include MidState Medical Center, Middlesex Hospital and Waterbury Hospital.
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