Q&A: Drexel’s Future Reading Hospital – Tower Health Medical Branch Campus
Last year, Drexel University and Tower Health announced plans to develop a branch medical school campus that will be located in Reading, Pennsylvania. But what does that really mean for Drexel, and especially Dragons within the College of Medicine? DrexelNow talked to the College of Medicine’s Senior Vice Dean for Educational and Academic Affairs Valerie Weber, who has been, and will continue to be, involved with the partnership. Read on to learn more about why Tower Health and Reading were chosen, and how this will benefit the University.
Q: So tell me a little about what’s happening here.
A: Well, as you know, the College of Medicine is opening a four-year branch medical campus that will be operational starting in the 2021-2022 academic year, when we will admit a class MD students who will spend all four years at Reading. We will be expanding our class size from 260 students a year to 300 students. The campus will provide a full range of everything they would need and use for their complete medical education.
The Reading Hospital – Tower Health campus will ultimately bring in Drexel’s quality medical education and expand it to a different region of the state. We create fantastic doctors to serve the state and serve the country.
Q: Why was Tower Health chosen as a partner for this new venture?
A: Tower Health is a really dynamic health system, and it’s an expanding health system. They have a very long history of medical excellence in graduate and undergraduate education, and they have recently expanded into the Philadelphia market. As an expanding health system, Tower wanted a stronger academic profile... The time was right, we have an obvious Philadelphia connection and we see them as a very strong partner. This is a proactive way for us to commit to a forward-thinking relationship. I think that this is going to be important for our future and their future — they’re now an academic health system and they have a primary affiliation with a medical school campus.
Q: Why was Reading picked for the location?
A: You would be amazed if you went there — seeing is believing! It’s only an hour and fifteen minutes away by car. It will provide a different type of environment than our Philadelphia campus, as a small urban area with a diverse community with growing medical needs. And Reading Hospital, which is located 0.6 miles away from the medical school campus, has a beautiful campus and modern hospital facilities. The Reading Health Plex facility is gorgeous, it’s brand new and it’s very patient-friendly and technologically up-to-date. There’s quite a lot to be proud of. And the Reading Hospital management team is spectacular. We initially approached them to be a regional campus for third- and fourth-years, but found they had a bigger vision and it turned out that what they wanted was ultimately what we wanted.
Q: What are Drexel’s other regional medical campuses?
A: Besides the Reading Hospital – Tower Health campus, the College of Medicine has five regional medical campuses in addition to our primary affiliates in Philadelphia, Hahnemann University Hospital, in Center City, and St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in the northeast. There’s Abington Hospital – Jefferson Health in Montgomery County and the Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Delaware County. There’s Wellspan York Hospital in York, Pennsylvania and Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh. And in California, there’s Kaiser Permanente – Sacramento.
Q: What’s next for the Tower Health campus?
A: We are working in partnership with Tower Health to design a state-of-the-art medical education building at the Reading campus. The architectural firm we have engaged has developed some of the premier medical education buildings around the country. In addition, we are beginning the hiring process for the staff and faculty who will bring the new campus to life. We are very excited to see the new campus become a reality!
This story has been updated since it was published to reflect a change in when the first-year medical students will begin their education at the Reading location. Education, classroom and lab instruction will no longer take place at a temporary site but will begin once the new building is complete.