Here We Grow: A New Regional Campus
A view of West Reading showing the bell tower at Reading Hospital
The College of Medicine will gain a four-year regional medical campus in West Reading near Reading Hospital thanks to a 20-year academic affiliation agreement signed by Drexel University and Tower Health. The collaboration between the two institutions was celebrated in a signing ceremony at the end of February, after it received the approval of the Liaison Committee on Medical Education.
The affiliation with Tower Health is unique because students will be able to fulfill all four years of their medical education at the campus, including the basic science curriculum. (Generally, the term "regional medical campus" refers to a center providing all clinical rotations.) This structure will allow the College of Medicine to increase its overall enrollment, at a time when the Association of American Medical Colleges, among other sources, continues to predict a shortage of up to 100,000 physicians by 2030. There is also a push to increase medical coverage in rural and underserved areas.
At the signing: Drexel President John Fry, Tower Health President & CEO Clint Matthews, Dean Daniel V. Schidlow, MD
Not only will the College of Medicine expand its reach, but the school and its students will also benefit from the relationship with Tower Health, a strong regional health system comprising six hospitals and dozens of other clinical facilities. Reading Hospital, the largest hospital between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, is the system's flagship.
The hospital already has a presence in medical education, offering medical student rotations and sponsoring several accredited residency programs, and this initiative will further its standing as an academic medical center. "This is an exciting step in the evolution of our academic mission," says Tower Health's president and CEO Clint Matthews. "Our affiliation with Drexel will help us address projected physician shortages in our region, bring improved access and services to our patients and provide significant economic benefit to the entire Reading area."
The new regional campus is expected to create jobs for physicians, educators and other health professionals in a part of the state that has an increased demand for highly trained physicians.
Design for Medical Education
Construction plans are underway. Tower Health signed a memorandum of understanding with Equus Capital Partners, Ltd., last October for the campus to be part of The Knitting Mills redevelopment site, formerly home to the VF Outlet Center retail complex. A state-of-the-art building is slated for the property, which is about half a mile from Reading Hospital. Tower Health has selected a top-ranked architectural firm, The S/L/A/M Collaborative, which specializes in higher education projects, to design the facility.
When it opens, the new campus will welcome a class of approximately 40 first-year medical students. Students will have clinical rotations at Reading Hospital and its awardReading Hospital's 150th anniversary gala: President Fry; Reading Hospital President & CEO William Jennings; Tower Health's President & CEO Clint Matthews; Dean Schidlow; Associate Dean Linda Berardi-Demo, EdD; Senior Vice Dean Valerie Weber, MD; Tower Health EVP Dan Ahern; Drexel Interim Co-CFO Tony Esposito; Tower Health EVP & CFO Gary Conner winning Reading HealthPlex for Advanced Surgical & Patient Care, opened in 2016, one of the most technologically advanced health care centers in the region.
Reading Hospital's 150th anniversary gala: President Fry; Reading Hospital President & CEO William Jennings; Tower Health's President & CEO Clint Matthews; Dean Schidlow; Associate Dean Linda Berardi-Demo, EdD; Senior Vice Dean Valerie Weber, MD; Tower Health EVP Dan Ahern; Drexel Interim Co-CFO Tony Esposito; Tower Health EVP & CFO Gary Conner
Reading Hospital is a Magnet Recognized acute-care facility and has been named one of the top 100 hospitals in the country, in addition to being admired as one of the most wired and greenest. The emergency department is the busiest in Pennsylvania, with 133,000 visits a year. In 2017, Reading Hospital delivered 3,500 babies, provided more than 750,000 outpatient services and oversaw 33,000 inpatient admissions. As a hub for technologically advanced medical care, the hospital is also a state leader in surgical volume, with more than 19,000 annual procedures.
The Larger Context
For medical students — and faculty — the new regional campus presents the chance to study and work in a thriving, well-located area. The borough of West Reading (population approximately 4,200) has a walkable downtown with shops, restaurants and cultural venues. Nearby Reading hosts the Berks Jazz Festival every year and welcomes visitors to the Santander Performing Arts Center. Reading is also a minor-league sports mecca with its own hockey, baseball and arena football teams. The surrounding area offers much for outdoor enthusiasts, including French Creek State Park, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and Crystal Cave Park.
In the bigger picture, this addition brings together two historic organizations that have successfully evolved into the present moment with technological advances in education, research and clinical care. Like the College of Medicine, Tower Health has built a state-of-the-art institution on the foundations of a historic legacy. Reading Hospital was born in 1867 as the Reading Dispensary, while the College of Medicine's earlier incarnations, Hahnemann Medical College and Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania, were founded in 1848 and 1850, respectively.
"We are very excited about this new collaboration, which offers our students a great opportunity to train with excellent physicians at a top-quality facility," says Drexel College of Medicine Dean Daniel V. Schidlow, MD. "The College of Medicine has a heritage of innovation and inclusiveness. This unique collaboration with Tower Health, a strong regional health system, is a wonderful addition to our legacy."
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