Belmont University has been mulling whether to start a medical school for years, after launching a law school and a college of pharmacy. And with Thursday’s announcement that hospital giant HCA is supporting the effort, Belmont says it intends to move forward with seeking accreditation.
“It’s not an easy step, but it’s characteristic of Belmont University to take on challenges and do big things, and do those things well,” president Bob Fisher says in a statement, noting the university’s hosting of its second presidential debate next week.
If successful, Belmont would become the 156th medical school accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education.
HCA’s role will be to host third- and fourth-year students in its TriStar hospitals for clinical rotations. HCA medical staff will also have the opportunity to fill faculty positions at the school.
The Nashville-based hospital chain, which is the largest in the country, also sees the partnership as a recruiting opportunity for new physicians, with a shortage predicted over the next decade. HCA has already expanded its residency slots in recent years, and the hospital chain has moved into nursing education with its purchase of a for-profit nursing school to create a pipeline of nurses.
Deep ties to Belmont
HCA also has already had deep connections with Belmont, starting with its co-founder Jack Massey, who was a longtime supporter and whose name is on the university’s business school. Former CEO Jack Bovender was a major donor as Belmont pushed into health sciences and former CEO Milton Johnson currently serves as a university trustee. He spoke at Thursday’s brief announcement.
Belmont’s next step is to name a dean. Then a timeline will be established for achieving accreditation. Preliminary approval usually takes three years. Final approval comes as the first class prepares to graduate. A site has been identified for a 150,000-square-foot building, though it’s unclear if that will be on Belmont’s main campus.
The university plans to admit an inaugural class of 150, which would be slightly larger than Nashville’s other two medical schools. Vanderbilt University admits about 100 MD candidates annually. Meharry Medical College has had about 120 in recent years.
Dr. Jeff Balser, dean of Vanderbilt’s School of Medicine, says he welcomes Belmont’s medical school, noting that Americans are aging.
“Increasing the nation’s physician pipeline is urgently needed,” he says.