The state’s newest medical school, the Seton Hall-Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, has received a critical national accreditation and is on track to welcome the first group of students to its north Jersey campus sometime this summer.
The facility will be the fifth medical school in New Jersey and the first private operation to open in decades. Located on the former site of international drug company Hoffman-La Roche, the program expects to serve about 55 students initially with total enrollment of 500 in the years to come, according to reports.
Last week the Seton Hall-Hackensack project received preliminary approval from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, a body of the Association of American Medical Colleges, which oversees 149 fully accredited medical schools and several hundred teaching hospitals nationwide. The approval is a key step toward full accreditation and enables the college to receive federal funding and begin to recruit its charter class.
“This is a remarkable achievement and we are thrilled that our vision for a new approach to medical education is becoming a reality,” Hackensack Meridian Health said in a statement. Details on the application process and tuition have yet to be announced.
NJ needs more doctors
The school, announced in January 2015, was launched in part to increase the number of primary-care physicians and specialists in New Jersey; officials warn that by 2020, the state will need at least an estimated 3,000 more doctors to serve a growing patient population with increasingly complex needs.
The project was initiated by Seton Hall University, a private college in South Orange, and what was then the Hackensack University Health Network; Hackensack merged with Meridian Health in a deal completed in June 2016, creating the state’s second largest hospital system. The network now has 16 hospitals, facilities that will serve as teaching sites for the medical school.
The medical school’s curriculum will be designed to encourage clinical care that is equally accessible to patients across socioeconomic, racial, and geographic boundaries. Course work will include a three-year course called “the Human Dimension,” designed to help students better prevent, diagnose, and treat chronic diseases and integrate healthcare with all aspects of patients’ lives, according to Healthviews, a newsletter distributed by Hackensack Meridian Health earlier this year.
“Health and wellness begins in our communities, and every physician, regardless of their specialty, must understand the unique health needs of the communities they are serving,” Dr. Bonita Stanton, the school’s founding dean, said in the newsletter. “Our graduates will be equipped to design and implement disease prevention and treatment plans that work as integrated parts of people’s everyday experiences.”
The facility will occupy the former drug company’s complex off Route 3, on the border of Clifton and Nutley. The campus will include the School of Medicine and Seton Hall’s College of Nursing and School of Health and Medical Sciences, which will be relocated from their current site in South Orange, and it will host research activities. Combining these disciplines will enable students to train in a team-based approach that can improve care.
“Dynamic changes in health care require us to rethink the education of future doctors. We are creating a rigorous academic curriculum that combines traditional science with a focus on the new frontiers in medicine — prevention and population health, genetics, and team-based care delivery in communities,” according to Hackensack Meridian Health. “This holistic approach truly helps us forge a new path and the future of health care depends on such innovative solutions.”
In New Jersey, the Seton Hall school will join two medical training programs run by Rutgers University — Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, in Newark, and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, in New Brunswick — Rowan University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine, in Stratford, and Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, in Camden. The osteopathic school opened nearly four decades ago, Cooper launched its program in 2012, and the Rutgers schools grew out of the dismantling of the state’s former medical education system — the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey — completed in 2013.