Two regional institutions are partnering on an endeavor that will see a new academic health system rise in South Jersey.
On Jan. 4, Virtua Health and Rowan University announced an affiliation agreement to create the Virtua Health College of Medicine & Health Sciences of Rowan University. An $85 million philanthropic investment from Virtua, to Rowan, will create an endowment to help support the partnership.
In November, Virtua and Rowan signed a letter of intent to expand their relationship across education, research and patient care.
“The best health systems in the nation partner with great research institutions,” said Rowan University President Ali Houshmand. “Virtua Health is one of the leading health care providers in the state. To have earned Virtua’s confidence and to be the partner they choose to invest in is tremendous. We’re proud to share Virtua’s values and vision and to see a future where we can make a difference together.
“This landmark gift and our partnership will transform both institutions,” Houshmand added.
The college will house the state’s only osteopathic medical school, an expanded nursing and allied health professions school, and a new school of translational biomedical engineering and sciences, in addition to several new research institutes. According to an announcement from the partners, the Virtua Health College of Medicine & Health Sciences of Rowan University will align clinical practices to improve patient care and train future workers.
“There has never been a more defining moment for our two respected organizations to come together to transform and reimagine the future of health care and the health care workforce than right now,” said Dennis Pullin, president and CEO of Virtua Health. “This affiliation will further strengthen our relationship with Rowan so that we can innovate around the training of tomorrow’s physicians and health professionals and the critical research that will impact the future of health care in this community. I am excited about the purposeful things that we will do together and the lasting, here-for-good impact our efforts will have in New Jersey and beyond.”
Among the partners’ identified commitments is the goal to increase health equity by meeting the needs of those underserved in South Jersey; to innovate through research, developing and testing of new therapies, treatments and models of care; and to educate and train New Jersey’s next generation of physicians, nurses and allied health professionals.
“This expansion is expected to generate more than $225 million in new research grants by 2032,” said Rowan Provost Tony Lowman. “This research will focus on translation of technologies to practice and have an important impact on patient care as well as put Rowan among the leading R1 research institutions in the country, representing the highest level of research activity at academic institutions.”
‘Creating a pipeline’
For their first three research institutes, the partners say the focus will be on cardiovascular disease, solid organ transplant and regenerative medicine, and primary care. The building of a facility to support basic, translational and clinical research is also included in the plans for the new school. Over the next 10 years, the partners say they’ll recruit 50 new faculty investigators, including basic and clinician scientists.
“We are creating a pipeline of talented health care professionals while further establishing our region as a sought-after destination for a rewarding education,” said Dr. Reginald Blaber, executive vice president and chief clinical officer for Virtua.
The new partnership will integrate the Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes School of Nursing with Rowan University School of Nursing & Health Professions, allowing Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) students to apply with a single application process. According to the collaborators, the coursework will follow a 3+1 program offered in conjunction with Rowan College of South Jersey, Rowan College at Burlington County and Camden County College, providing education at a comparatively lower cost.
The Nurturing Nurses program was announced last month at the Our Lady of Lourdes School of Nursing commencement. An early product of the collaboration between Virtua and Rowan, the initiative allows Virtua-employed registered nurses to pursue a BSN at Rowan, with Virtua footing the bill; the current cost of tuition is $14,000.
To meet needs of the community’s workforce, additional allied health profession programs will be developed, according to the partners. Virtua also plans to expand its Graduate Medical Education program in partnership with Rowan.
“As a major teaching affiliate of the University, Virtua Health will provide essential and vitally needed clinical experience for undergraduate medical, nursing and other health professions students to help fill New Jersey’s need for highly skilled health care workers,” Pullin said. “Our intention is for this investment to also catalyze research in health sciences, leading to greater public and private funding for research and scholarship support for students most in need.”