Originally appeared on NorthJersey.com on March 27, 2018.
Nearly 1,000 people have applied to the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University, the state’s first new medical school in 50 years, since it began accepting applications last week, school officials reported Monday.
And by the time admissions close on May 15, said Bonita Stanton, the school’s founding dean, officials expect to have several thousand applicants to choose from.
That’s for 55 slots for the school’s first-ever class.
And admissions officers don’t have much time to make their decision: Classes start July 9 at the campus, on the former Hoffman-La Roche property on the border between Clifton and Nutley.
“We always knew that it was going to be tight,” Robert C. Garrett, co-CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health, said of the short time frame.
Financial aid for all
Additionally, the Hackensack Meridian Health board of trustees recently voted to establish a $100 million endowment fund for scholarships to the school, Garrett said.
Garrett said Hackensack’s trustees realized that with so new a school, “It could take some time until philanthropy kicked in.”
The endowment will be used to offset all students’ medical school tuition, which is currently pegged at $65,000 annually, by at least 30 percent — more for those students with greater needs, school officials said.
More than just medical students
Along with opening the School of Medicine, Seton Hall University will relocate its College of Nursing and School of Health and Medical Sciences to the site this spring, said Mary J. Meehan, interim president of Seton Hall.
In addition, medical school students will train in a number of Hackensack Meridian Health’s 16 hospitals, including Hackensack University Medical Center.
Garrett said one major benefit of a new medical school that provides opportunities for residencies is that students who complete their residencies locally tend to stay in the region. This could go a long way to addressing New Jersey’s expected shortage of physicians, he said.
Greater focus on preventive medicine
Prospective physicians will navigate major health care changes that are underway, including the transition to value-based care, in which physicians and hospitals are paid to keep people well, officials said.
This is a shift from fee-for-service medicine, in which providers are paid for each treatment and procedure, officials said.
The strategy is essential to improve outcomes and lower the cost of care as the nation faces an epidemic of diabetes and other chronic disease, which are costly and in many cases preventable, officials said.
Given that the United States spends far more than virtually all nations but lags behind its peers in all major areas of health, including maternal and infant health and life expectancy, this approach aims to eliminate disparities in health outcomes by closely coordinating care and intervening earlier, school officials said.
The new school is also different in that it offers a three-year program, one of only a dozen or so in the nation to take this approach, which can significantly lower the cost of a medical education. Medical students can opt for the more traditional four-year program as well.
For the region, the medical school is the first of several redevelopment phases planned at the 116-acre former Hoffmann-La Roche site. The medical school takes up only about 20 acres of the site.
Officials from both Clifton and Nutley are hoping that the school and accompanying research facilities will drive redevelopment of the site as a science and research hub, which is projected to create hundreds of jobs for the region.
Roche, which began ceasing operations in 2012, provided 8,000 to 10,000 jobs in its heyday.
Not only has the region lost those jobs, but Clifton and Nutley lost almost $15 million in tax ratables — $5 million for Clifton and more than $9 million for Nutley.
Things began to turn around when Prism Capital Partners of Bloomfield bought the site in 2016. Since then, it has been working to reinvent the campus with the moniker ON3, and create a synergy among like-minded businesses geared toward life sciences.