News Local/State

Plan To Study Competing Eng-Med Plans Going To UI Trustees


The University of Illinois Urbana campus has been developing plans for a new engineering-focused College of Medicine that would utilize new engineering trends like “big data” and bioengineering. But now, not one, but two plans will be sent along to the Board of Trustees.

The trustees’ Healthcare System Committee heard Chancellor Phyllis Wise’s pitch on Monday for a new College of Medicine based at the U of I Urbana campus.

Speaking via Internet hookup during a visit to Taiwan, Wise said that several letters of support back up her argument that to make this new engineering focus work in a medical school, you need to start from scratch … “which is to say that to change the traditional trajectory of a college of medicine is a very difficult task, particularly if the college of medicine is a large component of the university.“

The new College of Medicine would be set up by the Urbana campus College of Engineering, and Urbana-based Carle Health Systems.

Carle Senior Vice-President Stephanie Beevers says preliminary discussions between the two institutions are revealing exciting possibilities.

“We’ve got cardio-thoracic surgeons at our campus actually talking to the engineers over here on how to improve patients’ wellness and recuperation after having a heart attack, for example”, said Beevers. “We’ve got others that are talking about how could we improve bariatric surgery by looking at devices, and how to utilize them differently as we move into the future.”

The university’s existing College of Medicine has an alternate proposal for an engineering-central medical program. Dean Dimitri Azar says while the Urbana plan would create a small college with about 50 med students, a program based at the Chicago-based College of Medicine would cost less and serve more people.

“This is an opportunity for the roughly 1,300 medical students to benefit from this, and benefit from the engineering strength, not only in Chicago, but also in Urbana”, said Azar.

Azar says his plan would be a “win-win” partnership with the Urbana campus, with a redefinition of the current regional branch medical campus at Urbana, and creation of an Illinois Translational Bioengineering Institute to be based at Urbana.

The proposal going to trustees later this month would have U of I President Robert Easter study both plans, and report in time for trustee consideration in March.