King College Establishes School of Medicine at Stone Mill Park in Abingdon
The proposed King School of Medicine & Health Sciences Center officially has a home at Stone Mill Business and Technology Park in Abingdon and a financial and land commitment of $15 million through a public private partnership with the town and neighboring Washington County.
With the signing of an Execution of Agreement at a joint meeting early Friday, Abingdon Town Council and the Washington County Board of Supervisors formally committed to partnering with King College to move the allopathic medical school project forward. Abingdon agreed to a financial commitment of $3.5 million and up to seven parcels of land totaling 36 acres at Stone Mill Park valued at $4 million. Washington County's Board of Supervisors also made a financial commitment of $7.5 million to the venture on Friday, which affirms that the school will be built at Stone Mill Park and adjacent properties to the business park.
During the news conference, King College also announced a public private partnership with the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center to house a substantial portion of the medical education program. Higher Ed Center Executive Director Rachel Fowlkes said her facility will provide cutting-edge opportunities for King medical students to have access to state-of-the-art technology and medical education.
King College also announced that it has secured the option on purchasing 15 additional acres of land from Highlands Union Bank located adjacent to Stone Mill Park to grow its med school campus.
"Thank you, Abingdon, and thank you, Washington County, for your commitment to this partnership," said King President Dr. Gregory D. Jordan at a news conference after the joint meeting. "Finding a home at Exit 14 and securing substantial funding for the proposed School of Medicine have been crucial milestones in this process. All of us will benefit in the quality and delivery of improved health care for our region and also in unparalleled economic development that will bring in high-paying jobs. This announcement provides the momentum to transition to the next phase in implementing this project. We look forward to exciting days ahead."
Abingdon Mayor Ed Morgan and Washington County Board Chair Dulcie Mumpower called the announcement "transformational" in its projected impact on the region's health care and economy. Local leaders have trumpeted King College's medical education initiative as vital to addressing the anticipated critical physician shortage of 6,500 doctors by 2020 in the Southern Highlands region of Central Appalachia, an area that includes Southwest Virginia, Northeast Tennessee, Eastern Kentucky, Western North Carolina and Southern West Virginia.
"The Town of Abingdon is proud to welcome the proposed King School of Medicine to our community," said Morgan. "We are known for our commitment to the arts and education and high technology. We also want to stand out as a community wholly committed to medical education so that our region can reap extraordinary gains. We are grateful to Washington County for partnering with us to make this vision a reality."
"Our board carefully considered this decision from both economic and practical perspectives," said Mumpower. "It's a win-win situation for the people of Abingdon, Washington County and the surrounding region ? in terms of job creation, business development and healthcare options."
Jordan also praised the foresight of Fowlkes and the SWVHEC's Board of Directors for providing an "exceptional location with extraordinary value for medical education" near the site of the medical school campus at Stone Mill. He also reaffirmed the value of public private partnerships.
Ron Proffitt, the newly inaugurated president of Virginia Highlands Community College, reported that King College is also in discussion with his school to enhance the pipeline of educational opportunities for VHCC students at both the Higher Ed Center and eventually at the King School of Medicine & Health Sciences Center. He expressed excitement about new opportunities in allied health and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs through this collaborative venture.
According to independent medical education consulting firm Tripp Umbach, the Southern Highlands region of Central Appalachia has more than 40 medically underserved counties and communities and lags significantly behind the national average in access to health care, life expectancy, prevalence of diabetes and low birth weight. Tripp Umbach predicts that this region will continue to lose approximately 375 doctors per year due to the aging physician workforce.
A medical school positively impacts a region in a number of ways through economic expansion, state tax revenue, medical research and related business spinoffs, medical education and community service, according to Tripp Umbach.
Tripp Umbach has projected that construction of the school will result in $27 million for Abingdon, with the creation of approximately 200 direct and indirect jobs for the town alone. The first class of 75 students is projected to generate nearly $10 million in local revenue, and when that class graduates, the annual economic impact to Abingdon alone could be $15 million, Mumpower said.
For Washington County, construction of the project could result in as much as $91 million in revenue. By year four, as the first students enroll, additional revenue generated from economic activity at the medical school could result in a business volume impact estimated at $19 million for the county.
By year 10, Washington County could see the addition of 489 direct and indirect jobs created by the medical school, while Abingdon could benefit from 108 new jobs.
Studies show that potential annual economic impact for the region increases to as much as $1 billion once the school, an affiliated research campus and a medical corridor that is likely to develop around the medical school reach their full productivity by 2035. Other benefits include new neighborhoods, schools, retail, banking and commercial opportunities to support the anticipated increase in population.