Medical school extension also possible
East Tennessee State University is seeking to become more involved in Sevier County and will soon be instituting a training program involving local hospitals and health centers, according to Joe Smith with the ETSU media relations department.
Five Oaks founder David Ogle spoke to this news at the June meeting of the Sevier County Economic Development Council (SCEDC). Ogle went one step further to say that officials may be considering a possible extension of East Tennessee State University’s Medical College in Sevier County in the form of what he referred to as a “mini medical school campus.”
In the near future, Smith did confirm with The Herald that ETSU is “trying to work with Sevier County more,” and is working towards building partnerships with Sevier’s local hospitals and clinics.
“Some of our students in Public Health and Nursing will be doing training in Sevier County with hospitals and health centers,” said Smith.
While discussing the SCEDC’s five-year strategic plan at their annual retreat, the board members turned the meeting over to local developer and former county commissioner David Ogle.
SCEDC Executive Director Allen Newton said that one key to this plan with regards to education and workforce development “is to develop partnerships with other institutions to offer four-year degrees in Sevier County.”
Ogle took a moment to speak to that goal, and how a possible solution fell in their laps as if by accident. “A little over a year ago Jack Parton and I approached East Tennessee State Univeristy, which we’re both graduates of, to provide an intern at the Mountain Hope Clinic,” said Ogle. “What’s ensued from that has been nothing short of amazing, I think.”
“They are so interested in, not only providing interns, but coming down to Sevier County to hopefully establish what would become a sort of mini medical school campus for ETSU here in Sevier County,” Ogle said.
Ogle said that he and others met with the dean of the medical school last week “and they are under a federal mandate to grow their medical school by 30 percent and they really want to look to Sevier County so they can fulfill that growth through some facility that they would have here.”
“There are a lot of things to do before that can happen,” Ogle said, “but they want to start immediately.”
Ogle said that school officials have been discussing offering a joint M.D. and Master of Public Health degree “that would only be offered in Sevier County.”
“Some of the other things they’re talking about and are already in the process of establishing is a nursing program that takes a two-year nursing degree and turns it into a four-year nursing degree that would be a joint program that would involve Covenant Health,” Ogle explained, adding that there is currently a shortage of nurses.
“It’s an exciting program. They actually hope to establish the beginnings this fall if we can get the funding in place for this initial year,” he said.
Ogle said that the parties involved would be presenting this idea sometime in July in a joint meeting with all the city commissions.
“I don’t think many of us realize the synergy in what this one thing can do for the county,” said board member and Sevier County Bank President R.B. Summitt. “When you think about relocating, you think about the educational system, you think about the healthcare and economic opportunity. This combines on all three and fits so well in your strategic plan,” Summitt said.
“We all know the struggles we’ve had with TennCare. These folks need to be taken care of and this is just a phenomenal opportunity,” said Summitt.