New York Institute of Technology plans to expand its osteopathic medical college to the campus of Arkansas State University in what would be the first national venture for the Old Westbury school.
The move would give Arkansas its second medical school, with the goal of training students in a region where there are severe shortages of primary-care physicians.
"It increases the stature of our university and it is in line with our strategic plan and our mission," NYIT president Edward Guiliano said. "It is also the fastest, least expensive and most efficient way to start a medical school in a place that critically needs one."
NYIT is expected to officially announce its plan on its website Sunday. University trustees unanimously approved a resolution to partner with the public university system in Arkansas on Friday afternoon at a board meeting in Manhattan.
Arkansas State University would donate a building on its Jonesboro campus. NYIT, a private, nonprofit university, would finance the renovations, buy equipment and hire about 20 faculty members.
The initial start-up costs are estimated at $6 million, Guiliano said.
The school could begin enrolling students in Arkansas as early as the 2016-17 academic year, presuming the necessary national accreditations are granted on time, said Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee, NYIT's vice president for health sciences and medical affairs, who is overseeing the project.
The plan is aimed at having graduates of the future NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University-Jonesboro practice within a 500-mile radius of the school including parts of Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky, Ross-Lee said.
The head of Arkansas' only existing medical-degree program is skeptical about whether opening a new medical school by itself would fill the physician shortage in that area.
"If we keep adding medical school graduates without residency programs, you won't have practicing physicians," said Dr. Dan Rahn, chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
There are 800 residency spots in the state's hospitals and clinics for medical school graduates. Years of inadequate funding have prevented those institutions from adding new positions, Rahn said.
Doctors must train as residents of accredited health care institutions after graduating from medical school before becoming fully licensed.
Ross-Lee said the residency issues can be overcome.
"We are planning to establish new residency training programs in hospitals that are not currently involved in residency training," Ross-Lee said. In 2013, NYIT matched 99 percent of its medical graduates with residency programs, college officials said.
The tuition at NYIT's medical school in Arkansas would be $52,000, the same as on the Old Westbury campus. It is the third largest osteopathic medical school in the country with an enrollment of 1,200.
There would probably be more scholarships to attend the school in the South than for the New York school, Ross-Lee said.
NYIT's medical school is a four-year program that awards a doctor of osteopathic medicine degree, or D.O.
More common medical training results in a doctor of medicine degree or M.D. Physicians with either degree receive the same license and share the same medical rights and privileges in all 50 states.