BUIES CREEK – One simple but powerful word was repeated during Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony of Campbell University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine.
Fittingly, a big crowd gathered under a big tent at the site for Campbell’s 96,500-square-foot medical training facility Thursday to see the ceremonial golden shovels break dirt on North Carolina’s first medical school in 35 years. More than a dozen speakers, including N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue, talked of what the school - scheduled to open in the fall of 2013 - will mean not only to the area’s economy, but to health care in general in North Carolina and the southeastern portion of the U.S.
“The question I’m always asked is, ‘How can North Carolina compete?’” Perdue said to the crowd of more than 250. “The answer is simple. We compete by having big ideas and big dreams. Campbell’s big dream will transform the town of Buies Creek, Harnett County and the state.”
Campbell’s efforts to launch a medical school will directly address the growing shortage of physicians in North Carolina, according to Dr. John Kauffman, the school’s founding dean.
“Our state currently ranks 35th out of 50 in primary care physicians,” Kauffman said. “There are 20 counties without a single general surgeon and at least that many without an obstetrician. The future, however, is bright.”
Kauffman said Campbell’s osteopathic medical school will eventually graduate about 150 physicians each year, many of whom will practice in rural, under-served regions of the state. Students will spend their first two years training at the new facility in Harnett County and Years 3 and 4 training at community hospitals, where he expects many will live and put down roots.
The primary focus of the School of Osteopathic Medicine will be training for primary care and family medicine, general surgery, pediatrics, psychiatry and other services, with an emphasis on rural areas or regions with little or no health care options.
That focus is important to Tim McNeill, chairman of the Harnett County Board of Commissioners. McNeill fought back tears Thursday when talking about the school’s potential impact.
“It’s hard to believe there are still people in North Carolina who have to travel 80 miles to see a doctor,” McNeill said. “This is what many are dealing with, especially in the eastern portion of the state. This school, I believe, will alleviate this. This is truly the Lord’s work.”
He was equally emotional talking about the school’s immediate boost to Harnett County, which will also see a new 50-bed hospital open in Lillington in 2012. The regional economic impact of the medical school over its first 10 years of operation will be $300 million and 1,158 new jobs, according to a recent study.
“When Campbell announced its new medical school, they were sought by many counties … but they chose to stay here in Harnett County. And for that, we’re grateful,” McNeill said. “This school will take Harnett County to a new level.”
Billy Ray Hall, president of the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center in Raleigh, echoed McNeill’s remarks.
“It’s a win-win situation for us,” Hall said. “It will boost economic development with all the jobs, and it will provide a valuable health care resource. Campbell’s shown great vision in bringing this to fruition.”
At Thursday’s ceremony, Campbell also announced the name of its medical facility, the Leon Levine Medical Sciences Center, named for the Charlotte-area philanthropist and member of the North Carolina Business Hall of Fame.
“This will be a day long remembered,” Campbell President Dr. Jerry Wallace told the crowd. “I hope each of you can look back and say, ‘I was at Campbell the day they broke ground on new medical school, and it was a grand and glorious day.”
A “big” day, Wallace added.
“As Barney would say to Andy, ‘This is big,’” Wallace said, quoting “The Andy Griffith Show.” “We used that line back when we moved our law school to Raleigh … and if it’s possible, well … this is even bigger.”
“It’s more than medicine that treats sickness, but medicine that acknowledges that wellness is the best option.”
- Gov. Bev Perdue on osteopathic medicine, which differs from traditional health care practices in that its physicians partner with patients to achieve wellness by focusing on health education, injury prevention and disease prevention.
“I think this will expand the academic base of Campbell University. This will allow undergraduates more avenues to succeed in life. This is a chance to grow our university and bring Campbell to the forefront of private universities in our state.”
- Jeremy A. Winters, President of Campbell’s Student Government Association
“I’m here to see history in the making at Campbell. I look forward to the osteopathic medical school and what it will bring to Campbell.”
- Jonathan Bridges, SGA Vice President
“This is a significant event on many levels. This solidifies an obvious and tangible commitment by Campbell University to this enterprise. To be breaking ground before we are fully accredited shows a strong commitment to medical education. I believe this school will have a far reach in our state. That will be really exciting.”
- Richard Waldrop, M.D., Ph.D.
“Not only is this a dream come true for me, but all of our trustees, faculty, administrative staff, students and the Harnett County community.”
- Bob Barker, Class of 1965, chairman of the Campbell Board of Trustees
“I’ve often said the direction we need to head is not a system that treats the ill, but keeps people well. And that will be the focus of the 150 doctors a year who graduate from this wonderful, wonderful investment in the well-being of the people of North Carolina and the world.”
- State Rep. David R. Lewis, class of 1994
“One issue I noticed early in my tenure was that Harnett County needed more private care physicians. When Campbell University ordered a feasibility study of a new medical school, I was one of its biggest advocates. The best way to get physicians in our area is to train them here, and they’ll stay here.”
- Dr. Ronald Maddox, Dean of the College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences at Campbell
“My hair may be graying, and I may be senior faculty. But I’m feeling the rush of youth and excitement today. Campbell’s foresighted launch of a school of medicine and physician assistant program is a pivotal step in relieving the health care shortage in our state.”
- Thomas Colletti, director of Campbell’s Physician Assistant program