GREAT FALLS - Progress continues on creating the Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Great Falls.
It was October 2021 when the ground-breaking ceremony was hosted in what will soon be Montana's first medical school.
Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine is still undergoing construction, but progress has gone a long way.
The college will be located close to Benefis Health and Great Falls Central Catholic High School.
In recognition of the achievement, Great Falls Development Authority hosted a reception at the Montana History Museum in which attendees got the chance to hear more about what the medical school has to offer.
"It's an absolutely wonderful opportunity for us to be located here in Great Falls Montana. Our mission is serving the under-served and bringing underrepresented minorities into medicine, and this is the perfect opportunity for us to be able to give to the people of Montana by bringing students here, because we know that when students are educated in a state, they tend to try and stay in that state for post-graduate education and for practice, so that's where we think we'll really be able to help with the health care needs in Montana," Founding Dean of Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine Montana, Elizabeth Palmarozzi said.
Patricia Salkin serves as the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost for the Graduate and Professional Divisions at Touro University in New York City. She described her visions for Touro University and what she hopes students gain from having a campus in the Electric City.
"We're going to be bringing 500 medical students over the next four years into Great Falls," she said. "Our goal is to help address the health disparities that exist not only in Great Falls but throughout the state of Montana."
"We hope to bring in more physicians because by educating students here in Great Falls, we hope that a number of them will choose to do their residencies in Montana, and decide they want to either settle in Great Falls, or we hope to attract students that are from Montana and from Great Falls, and they'll be able to stay at home and provide medical care to the communities that they really care about," Salkin added.
Touro said in July 2021 that it plans to accept 125 students each year and to educate them with affiliates in Montana as well as sending some students out of state for their clerkships and rotations, according to Dr. Alan Kadish, president of the Touro College and University System.
Kadish said Touro plans to give preference to Montana residents but does not have a quota on how many in-state vs. out-of-state students it will accept.
“With our [osteopathic] model and increased primary care residencies, we believe that we will encourage students to enter primary care and remain in the state,” Kadish said.
Representatives from Touro University said the project could not have been possible without collaboration. They noted the culture of Great Falls played a major role as well.
"It is a partnership with the respect and family atmosphere that Touro University has, and it's the same in Great Falls," Palmarozzi said. "Everybody is so warm, so welcoming, and we're looking forward to a very long relationship with the people of Great Falls."
Great Falls Development Authority Vice President, Jolene Schalper noted the economic benefits of having a medical school in Great Falls. She said it's not just important for the students. It will also play a vital role in the growth of the Electric City.
"It will bring along ancillary benefits," Schalper said. "We're already seeing more housing going up because of it. We'll see shops and stores open to cater to this market, and because of the diversity of students that will be coming in from across the U.S. because there is not enough medical students currently in Montana to fill this school. So, we'll be having a lot of students coming here from across the U.S. - top-of-the-class students, and so it will hopefully expand our flight options as well."
If all goes to plan, the college aims to open its doors to students in July 2023. A 216-unit apartment complex is also being built nearby to help with student housing.
Work is also underway for a medical school in Billings; click here for details.