The 100,000-square-foot medical classroom and laboratory building at the recently announced Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Ivins is pictured in this artist's rendering.
The 100,000-square-foot medical classroom and laboratory building at the recently announced Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Ivins is pictured in this artist's rendering.
Picturesque Ivins, near St. George, has been chosen as the location of Utah’s second medical school. At a recent joint session of the Ivins City Council and Planning Commission, representatives of Rocky Vista University (RVU) announced plans to open the Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine Southern Utah Campus. The college will be located adjacent to the Southern Utah Veterans Home near 200 East and Center Street. RVU is a private, for-profit medical school.

According to university officials, pending receipt of necessary approvals and accreditation, the college will be built on approximately 32 acres and site plans and architectural designs are still in progress. The facility will be built in stages and representatives said construction on Phase 1 will begin in early 2016 and will incorporate an existing 23,000-square-foot building that was formerly the Snow Canyon Clinic of Ivins. The new medical education building will be approximately 100,000 square feet. Student housing is also planned, according to David Park, dean and chief academic officer at RVU, who met with Ivins officials.

Rocky Vista University’s main campus and administrative offices are located in Parker, Colorado. It was named as one of the nation’s most affordable private medical schools by U.S. News & World Report for the past two years.

A lot has to be accomplished to get the school open, according to Park, including accreditation hearings set for December in Chicago. The college plans to enroll its first class of 125 medical students in August 2017 and 250 students the following year. 

RVU students spend two years in classes and labs and then two years in clinical rotations as part of the university’s medical education program. Once the medical students graduate at RVU, they transition into residency programs to be completed at hospitals in the Rocky Mountain region, including Utah, Colorado, Idaho and Wyoming. Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George is not a teaching hospital and will not take residents or students on rotations, Park said.

Park said tuition will be around $49,000-50,000 per year.

The new Ivins campus will become Utah’s second medical school. The other is at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Officials said there would be pipeline programs that would ease admission to the university for students from both Southern Utah University and Dixie State University.

According to Park, the Ivins location was chosen over sites in Cedar City and a site near the new Dixie Applied Technology College slated for construction at the former St. George Municipal Airport.

Tim Anderson of the St. George office of the law firm of Jones Waldo was among the university representatives attending the Ivins council meeting. Anderson has been representing RVU in its search for a southern Utah site.

“From a local perspective, this is one of the most, probably, profound opportunities in terms of higher education for Southern Utah that’s ever come to us,” Anderson said, “So, this is a great opportunity.” 

The new school will improve prospects for recruiting students to Southern Utah University and Dixie State University, Anderson said. It will also have a profound effect on students high school age and younger throughout southwestern Utah.

“I think a lot more students are going to come this direction,” Anderson said.  “It’s a major upgrade. [Having] another medical school in Southern Utah is a great benefit for the entire state.” As a for-profit venture, the Ivins school will employ 60-80 people, mostly in high-paying jobs.

Ivins Mayor Chris Hart said he is thrilled that Ivins was selected for the medical school and said he believes it will have a positive impact on the entire region.

“For years, we have been exporting the majority of our students in the state of Utah, and certainly from the Dixie area here, to other states to go to medical school,” Hart said. When a student goes elsewhere to medical school, they generally don’t come back, Hart said. “So, essentially, we just export our brightest students to other states,” he said.

Hart said the medical school will bring economic benefit to the area with students and their families living in or visiting Southern Utah. The medical school’s faculty and students will be a great addition to the area, as well, he said, enhancing the long-term caliber of education for local children by stimulating and encouraging students who may want to attend medical school.

“We’re talking about some very bright people that will certainly add some strength, if you will, to our local demographic,” Hart said. “Medical school is kind of the highest of higher education — that’s what’s so exciting about this. It’s kind of as good as it gets.”

Doctors of osteopathy focus on primary care and RVU was attracted to Ivins because of the veterans home and the ability for students to learn about geriatric patient care, said Hart.

RVU was established in 2006 as the nation’s first private, for-profit health sciences university to offer a professional medical degree since 1910. The university operates without requiring direct, tax-based support. It is a privately funded organization with a board of trustees that administers oversight of the operations, administration, education and policy of the institution.

Read more: The Enterprise - Utah to get 2nd medical school near St George 

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