Arkansas State University and the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine have decided to re-up for the long haul.
In a partnership that has so far produced two graduating classes, ASU and NYIT renewed their agreement for 15 years on Monday. The institutions signed their original partnership in 2016, and the new agreement was extended to 2036 and includes NYIT’s operation of the ASU Student Health Center.
“There really weren’t any changes,” said Shane Speights, site dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine. “The original agreement had worked out well. There were not any real major modifications to it at all. Maybe just a little housekeeping.”
The extension, approved in a vote of the ASU board of trustees, extends what Speights described as a symbiotic arrangement expected to provide relief for physician shortages throughout the underserved Delta Region.
“This is really a no-brainer to both institutions,” Speights said. “This has been a great partnership that has continued to grow and expand with the opportunities we have with each other.”
The college is accredited for 115 students per class and has placed 199 into residencies, 53% in Arkansas, Delta states or states contiguous with Arkansas. Of those placed in residencies, 73% are going into primary care, which includes 32% in family medicine, 30% in internal medicine and 11% in pediatrics, OB/GYN or psychiatry.
The arrangement has provided NYIT an infrastructure it didn’t have while making ASU home to a medical school in northeast Arkansas. NYIT leases Wilson Hall from ASU, while the College of Osteopathic Medicine students have access to student housing, meal plans and other amenities.
The NYIT faculty only teaches NYIT students, but there are some collaborative opportunities, in research for example, and Speights noted there are cooperative situations with the ASU School of Nursing and other health professions.
Future crossover opportunities and collaborations will be explored, Speights said.
“We are working on some cross partnerships where basically our faculty could in fact assist their faculty and likewise,” he said. “Because they’ve got a great faculty. They’ve got a faculty that teaches the higher level science classes that are needed in medical school, and certainly on the research side.”
An infusion of medical professionals in the Delta will have a positive impact over time, ASU System President Chuck Welch said in a statement, while the local economy enjoys the immediate impact of more students and associated personnel.
“With 560 new students and employees, along with spouses and families, the medical school has also made a substantial economic impact on the Jonesboro region,” Welch said. “We appreciate the remarkable cooperation and work with NYIT and its leadership, and we’re excited about extending this relationship.”
Speights earned his medical degree at the University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kansas City, Kansas. Board certified in family medicine, he completed his residency at the University of Arkansas Medical Science Northeast Family Medicine Residency, St. Bernards Medical Center in Jonesboro.
Speights also holds a Bachelor of Arts in business administration from Henderson State University, in Arkadelphia, and was previously NYITCOM associate dean of clinical education.
He said the ASU-NYIT relationship began when then NYIT-Dean Barbara Ross-Lee, singer Diana Ross’ oldest sister, began looking for a campus infrastructure that would support the college of osteopathic medicine.
At the University of Ohio, Ross-Lee became the first African American woman dean of a medical school in the U.S. before moving on to NYIT.
“I was, at the time the VP at one of the local hospitals here. [ASU] kind of came to me and said ‘Hey this is kind of what we’re thinking,’ ” Speights said. “They said ‘We think we want to partner, because for us to go out and build it ourselves, it could be cost prohibitive.’ ”
NYIT gets things like classrooms, campus police and the benefits of being plugged into ASU’s seven-school system. ASU gets a medical school and the Jonesboro area, the Delta and Arkansas is expected to reap the benefits of medical professionals who may be willing to stay close to home to practice.
“You think about a rural state like Arkansas, and everything we know about our population, and one of the largest urban areas in the world combining their resources and knowledge,” Speights said. “We’ve learned a lot from each other and I think it’s made both institutions stronger.”