IU medical school eyes Evansville expansion

A property housing a closed arena and a new facility on the University of Southern Indiana campus are being considered as options as the Indiana University School of Medicine expands its Evansville program from two years of study to four.

The Evansville program is one of eight regional medical schools operated by IU. All of those programs are either four years in duration or are being expanded to four years as the physician work force ages and more doctors retire.

The program, which has been housed on the third floor of USI's Health Professions Building since 1994, is expected to expand to four years in June 2013, the Evansville Courier & Press reported.

Catherine Zimmermann, director of development for the Evansville medical school, said a steering committee is looking at a number of locations, including the Roberts Stadium property.

The 56-year-old arena closed last year with the opening of the new $127 million, 11,000-seat Ford Center, and city leaders have wrestled with what to do with the property. The City Council has decided to support Mayor Lloyd Winnecke's plan to raze the structure even though some members want to sell the building.

Zimmermann said the study of potential sites is early in the process and will assess the community's needs. That study is expected to be done by early January.

"The whole face of medicine is changing. It's a team-based environment. We're asking if things can be done collaboratively," Zimmermann said.

The Evansville program has 20 students in their first year and 16 in their second year.

Zimmermann said the current location at USI is adequate for first- and second-year students, but there isn't enough space to accommodate the expanded program.

Expanding the program will allow students to meet residency requirements at medical facilities in the Evansville area, which could create a pipeline of local physicians, Winnecke said.

Zimmermann agreed.

 "If a student completes his or her residency in a particular region, there's a 70 percent chance they will stay," she said.

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