By Mark Couch
(November 2019) The University of Colorado School of Medicine is in the planning stages of establishing a medical school branch in Fort Collins in partnership with Colorado State University.
The partnership aims to create a training program that builds on the strengths of both universities, joining CU School of Medicine’s leading medical education and research programs with CSU’s expertise in human, animal, and public health. The partners expect to enroll the first students in the program in 2021.
“We are pleased to forge this partnership with CSU to expand the opportunities for medical education in the state of Colorado,” said Donald Elliman, Jr., chancellor for the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. “Together, we are able to offer an education based on outstanding programs at both campuses and to improve the quality of health care for all in Colorado.”
CSU President and Chancellor Tony Frank, PhD, said: “As university leadership, we have long contemplated and discussed bringing together our two world-class medical education programs at CSU and CU. In the last year and half, our teams have worked together on this project, and I am enormously proud of everyone who has worked so diligently to make it a reality.”
The CU School of Medicine, based on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, already has a branch campus in Colorado Springs, where about 24 students per year participate in their third- and fourth-year rotations and education. Each year, the School of Medicine matriculates 184 students into its MD program.
Initial plans for the new branch call for maintaining current enrollment levels in the CU School of Medicine, with the possibility of expansion of the class size in the future.
The first class in the CSU program would include about a dozen students, who would be conducting all four years of their studies on the Fort Collins campus. Eventually, the branch could enroll as many as 48 students per year. Students at the branch would earn medical degrees from the CU School of Medicine.
One of the first tasks is for the CU School of Medicine to hire an assistant dean for its Fort Collins branch. The School also will recruit faculty and prepare the documentation required by the School of Medicine’s accrediting body, which must approve the branch before it can open.
Suzanne Brandenburg, MD, professor of medicine at the CU School of Medicine, is coordinating the process of establishing the medical school branch. She has already been working to recruit providers in the Northern Colorado medical community because a successful medical education program will depend on outstanding clinical learning opportunities.
“At the new medical school branch, students will learn in and from the local community alongside other health professionals,” Brandenburg said. “With this expansion, we hope to capitalize on the diverse expertise at CSU, to frame health care broadly, instilling in medical students a comprehensive view of our impact on society, considering not just the patient but also communities, populations, and the planet.”
Brandenburg also serves as director of interprofessional education on the Anschutz Medical Campus, focusing on educating students across health professions to effectively work in teams and tackle the complex health care problems of patients and society.
CSU and CU have collaborated for many years on health education and research, with partnerships in the Colorado School of Public Health, the CU Cancer Center, and the Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. In addition, several graduates from CSU each year matriculate to the CU School of Medicine.
Mark Stetter, DVM, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at CSU, said: “We’re looking forward to working even more closely together to help train physicians for Colorado through this collaboration. There are still an incredible number of details to be worked out, from building out our facilities here in Fort Collins to hiring faculty and assuring that all the programs are accredited and aligned. It’s a complex process, but I’m excited to be a part of it.”
The process of building out the fourth floor of the CSU Health and Medical Center, opened at the corner of College Avenue and Prospect Street in Fort Collins in 2017, to accommodate classrooms and administrative offices is underway, while the medical school has begun creating the new curriculum. Existing faculty from both CSU and CU will be teaching at the branch and new positions will be hired as needed.