CU School of Medicine in the Springs? Operation 6035 supporters plan to study possibility

June 28, 2010

A group of local economic development supporters plans to study the feasibility of opening a Colorado Springs branch of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, which would bring 24 third- and fourth-year medical students to work in area hospitals and clinics.

Members of Operation 6035, the economic development effort launched last year, want to recruit community volunteers who would spend the next several months studying whether local hospitals and clinics are interested in hosting the students for clinical rotations, and whether $2.5 million a year could be raised to fund the program, said Phil Lane, Operation 6035’s executive director. The study is the first of up to 10 projects Operation 6035 plans to pursue over six to eight months.

“If we have between 24 and 36 medical students, that will have some economic impact and we hope some will like the community and set up practices here,” he said. “Hopefully the program grows and will have more substantive economic impact in the future.”

The medical school has been trying to open a western branch in Grand Junction for nearly five years as a way to expand clinical opportunities for its 160-person student body, but that effort has been stymied by a lack of state funds, said Dr. Richard Krugman, dean of the University of Colorado School of Medicine. The idea of a Springs branch was first broached two years ago by the late Dr. Ted Lewis, a Springs physician, and Sandy Kraemer, a former University of Colorado regent,.

Krugman, who met with Operation 6035 officials last week, said the medical school also would try to recruit a team of local doctors to work up to half time as faculty members supervising the local students. He said the program likely wouldn’t begin operating in the Springs for two or three years to complete the recruiting and hiring process, obtain accreditation and find hospitals and clinics to host the students.

Once the branch is in place, Krugman said the medical school could expand into offering residency programs for its students at area hospitals and clinics and eventually do local clinical and medical education research.

Kyle Hybl, a University of Colorado regent and son-in-law of Lewis, said the branch would require “significant private support to get off the ground because the University of Colorado is not in the position to provide significant funding at this time.”

BJ Scott, president and CEO of Peak Vista Community Health Centers, said a medical program might help address a shortage of primary care doctors in the Pikes Peak region and that Peak Vista’s health care centers would be ideal training sites for students and residents.

“Research shows that if we grow our own training programs in this state and region, exposing medical residents to our community, they often stay,” Scott said. 

Carm Moceri, Memorial Health System’s chief strategy officer, said the city-owned system was open to the idea of the program and interested in the 6035 study. An educational program could help improve health care in the region, Moceri said, and the program itself would bring new people and jobs to the area.

Andy Wineke contributed to this story. Contact the writer at 636-0234.


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