May 17, 2010

School of Medicine to celebrate 40th anniversary

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Southern Illinois University School of Medicine is celebrating 40 years of excellence in health care, teaching, research and community service.

An open house to mark the occasion is set for 3 p.m. on Wednesday, May 19, in Lindegren Hall on the SIU Carbondale campus. Current and former faculty and staff, students, alumni and friends are welcome. A community service fair and picnic will take place during lunch time on June 3 and a 40th anniversary celebration is set for July 7, both at the School of Medicine in Springfield.

“Helping to address the health care needs of society is a special calling that requires commitment, compassion and innovation, all of which have characterized our School of Medicine for the past four decades,” SIUC Chancellor Samuel Goldman said. “The medical school faculty, staff and students recognize the importance of their efforts and appreciate the opportunity to enrich and transform lives.”

“We’re proud of how much has been accomplished at SIU School of Medicine in 40 years, especially the level of service we give back to the State of Illinois every day,” said Dr. J. Kevin Dorsey, dean and provost of the medical school since 2001. “We’ve kept our promise to serve the health care needs of Illinoisans, starting with more than 2,300 physician graduates as of this month, many of them caring for people here at home.

“But we’ve also brought both primary and specialty health care services to the downstate region, not only in our own medical facilities but also in about 50 outreach locations,” he added. “And we’re working on the future of health care, with millions of dollars of nationally funded research projects under way in School laboratories.”

The School of Medicine’s origins date to 1968, when an Illinois Board of Higher Education report, “Education in the Health Fields for the State of Illinois,” recommended the University create a medical school in downstate Illinois capable of graduating its first class of new physicians by 1978.

Dr. Richard H. Moy was hired in 1970 as the new school’s founding dean. He and newly recruited department chairs and clinical, basic science and medical education faculty began creating the school’s innovative, competency-based curriculum, which was designed to train new doctors over a three-year period. The basic sciences were concentrated on the Carbondale campus, with the remaining years of the medical school curriculum and most residency programs delivered on the Springfield campus.

Rather than owning and operating its own teaching hospital, the School of Medicine partnered with local hospitals to provide necessary clinical experiences for students. In December 1970, the School of Medicine signed an affiliation agreement with St. John’s Hospital and Springfield Memorial Hospital (now Memorial Medical Center), outlining future relationships. Subsequently, agreements also were signed with the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center in Marion, Memorial Hospital of Carbondale, St. Mary’s Hospital and Decatur Memorial Hospital in Decatur, and Blessing Hospital in Quincy.

The school’s medical education curriculum received provisional accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) in 1972, allowing the members of the charter class -- all Illinois students -- to begin their studies in Carbondale in June 1973. Full accreditation came in 1975, followed that same year by the first commencement of 24 advanced-standing students and in 1976 by the graduation of 43 students in the charter class.

In May 1972, the family medicine residency program in Springfield received preliminary accreditation. The first graduate medical education training program began two months later. Later, family medicine programs were added in Carbondale, Decatur and Quincy.

Also in 1972, the school’s Medical Dental Education Preparatory Program (MEDPREP) was established with the goal “to increase the number of medical minority group physicians practicing in central and southern Illinois.” The first MEDPREP students began their studies on the Carbondale campus in 1973.

In 1980, the IBHE approved the conversion of the medical school’s curriculum from a three-year to a four-year program.

Other School of Medicine highlights:

• There are nearly 250 residency positions in 15 different medical specialty and subspecialty disciplines, and 14 fellowship programs that offer post-residency training opportunities.

• In addition to training medical students, more than 1,900 residents and fellows have completed postgraduate training.

• The IBHE approved graduate programs leading to master’s and doctoral degrees on the Springfield campus in 1987. Programs currently are available in molecular biology, microbiology and biochemistry, pharmacology, and physiology. As of fiscal 2009, more than 260 master’s degrees and nearly 170 degrees have been awarded.

• Continuing Medical Education (CME) offers a full range of educational experiences that enhance health care professionals’ knowledge base, provide updates and review, and expand professional skills. By fiscal 2009, CME -- which began in 1972 -- offered 72 programs with more than 3,500 registrants.

• The medical school’s Telehealth Network and Programs began in 2002. Telehealth professionals help provide access to high-quality specialized health care, connecting experts with colleagues in rural communities, delivering educational opportunities in a timely and cost-efficient manner, and conducting academic research. As of fiscal 2009, Telehealth offered 37 educational programs at 88 sites in 62 Illinois communities, and eight clinical programs at 21 sites in 17 Illinois communities.

• Members of SIU HealthCare, the multi-specialty practice group associated with the School of Medicine, have more than 500,000 inpatient and outpatient visits a year, serving nearly 120,000 unduplicated patients. The clinical faculty now numbers more than 300, with 226 physicians. In addition to its main facilities in Springfield, it has clinical outreach at 108 sites in 50 Illinois communities.

• The state-of-the-art Simmons Cancer Institute will open to patients in July. Many of the school’s multi-disciplinary cancer clinics, now located in various hospital buildings, will move to the new building, along with clinical trials and outreach services. The Illinois Board of Higher Education approved a proposal to establish the SIU Cancer Institute in April 2000. A groundbreaking ceremony was held in July 2005. In November 2005, John and Jayne Simmons, and the Simmons law firm, located in East Alton, announced a $10.2 million philanthropic pledge to the institute to support research. The building was dedicated in July 2008. John Simmons is a member of the SIU Board of Trustees.

• Current research efforts cover a wide range of basic and clinical sciences, with special emphases on cancer, hearing and aging. The expansions of the Springfield Combined Laboratory Facility and the Simmons Cancer Institute are enabling the medical school to broaden research that benefits the region. About two-thirds of the school’s research comes from federal agencies, such as the National Institute of Health. Other support comes from health associations, pharmaceutical companies and private foundations. As of fiscal 2009, the school’s research portfolio has grown to $25.6 million. Current active cancer grants total more than $9.6 million.