Medical College of Wisconsin considering new programs to meet health care workforce needs

The Medical College of Wisconsin
The Medical College of Wisconsin

The Medical College of Wisconsin is exploring the addition of new programs at its Wauwatosa campus in an effort to better meet health care workforce needs in Wisconsin.

The Medical College of Wisconsin.

Possible new programs could include a master’s in genetic counseling, which would address a growing need for genetic counselors amid the rise of personalized medicine, and a physician assistant master’s program.

“We recognize that the physician workforce is only one small component of overall health care delivery and that MCW has an obligation to meet the workforce needs of our partners here in the region — both the main partners of the VA, Children’s (Hospital of Wisconsin) and Froedtert — but also our partners across the state,” said Dr. John Raymond, president and chief executive officer of MCW. “And that will involve new programs.”

Growing its programs would allow the freestanding medical college to match other successful health sciences universities, which offer a wider array of health-related disciplines, such as social work, dentistry, nursing and public health programs, Raymond said. Nationally, MCW is one of a few remaining freestanding medical schools not embedded within a larger parent university.


Planning is underway for a possible new PA program, which would differentiate itself from existing programs by allowing students to specialize in specific areas, such as pediatrics, genomic medicine, cancer or behavioral health, Raymond said. The specialized training would better equip future PAs to work in advanced care environments immediately upon graduating, he said.

“MCW is the largest employer of advanced practice nurses and physician assistants in the state and what we’ve found is that, although the students trained in Wisconsin are well-trained in the general knowledge that they need to be good PAs or nurse practitioners, that we spend about a year or two helping them learn how to function in a quaternary care environment,” Raymond said. “And often times after those two years of investment, they leave. So we would like to develop a pipeline of our own students who have an affinity for this campus, a loyalty to the Medical College of Wisconsin and a familiarity with what we have to offer.”

A potential master’s in genetic counseling program would meet another workforce demand in Wisconsin, Raymond said.

“As we move into the era of precision medicine or genomic medicine, personalized medicine, we’re going to need more genetic counselors that can help the physicians and other clinicians talk to their patients about the significance of their genome, or their microbiome, and what that means for their families and what their treatment options are,” Raymond said.

Both programs are still in the planning phase and would need board approval.

It would continue a trend of expansion for MCW in recent years. In August 2017, MCW launched a pharmacy school with an inaugural class of about 50 students. Enrollment has lagged MCW’s target of 70 students, which is the break-even point for the medical college.

Still, Raymond said, the program fills a need and offers more specialized training than other programs. The three-year doctor of pharmacy curriculum is aimed at giving students early exposure to various clinical settings and research in specialties, including precision medicine, pediatrics, pharmacogenomics, primary care, cancer and psychiatry.

“We’re not going to compromise quality,” he said. “We are extremely excited about the program and its prospects. … We’re using our pharmacy school to redefine the scope of practice of pharmacists so they can be incorporated at a higher level in the fabric of health care. We think that will lower costs, improve the quality of care and increase accessibility.”

In addition to possible program expansion, Raymond said the idea of adding new campuses “is always on the table.”

“We have a very unique exportable model of delivering education with community immersion, using community talent and resources in our curriculum,” Raymond said. “…Because we’re using digital technology and telecommunication, we’re able to export this model easily, plus or minus one time zone, anywhere where they speak English.”

One potential area could include southwestern Wisconsin, a model that would look similar to MCW’s regional campuses in Green Bay and Wausau. MCW invested about $30 million to launch its largely rural-serving Green Bay and Central Wisconsin campuses in 2015 and 2016. The first class at the Wausau campus and Green Bay’s second class are on track to graduate this spring.

Raymond also identified southeastern Wisconsin’s I-94 North-South corridor as a possible area for expansion. A campus located in that region would reflect the tech-oriented environment being developed there, he said.

“That’s a high-tech growth corridor,” he said. “We would probably focus a regional campus there on engineering, technology innovation and being comfortable in the health care environment of the future and being comfortable being innovators and entrepreneurs.”

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