Leaders from Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic met Sunday and Monday to discuss with members of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors the growing partnership between the two organizations and the expanding university footprint in Roanoke.
During Sunday’s open information session, the board learned more details of the partners’ vision for the Virginia Tech Carilion Health Sciences and Technology Campus in the Roanoke Innovation Corridor.
And on Monday, the board in turn passed a key resolution — an important next step — that will further support and enhance the partnership between the university and Carilion Clinic. Board members unanimously voted to support an effort to integrate fully the academic and research missions of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine into Virginia Tech.
Officials believe the integration process will take approximately two years to complete and it will result in the establishment of the ninth college at Virginia Tech. Currently the medical school is an independent institution, not fully part of Carilion Clinic or Virginia Tech. The school, along with the closely aligned Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, will form the core of the expanded Virginia Tech Carilion Health Science and Technology Campus.
“For more than a decade, the relationship between Virginia Tech and Carilion has grown stronger as we both focus on supporting our region,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. “Our partnership has connected smart people with brilliant ideas, and the integration of the school of medicine into a vibrant, growing, and dynamic research university with world-class expertise in the biomedical sciences is a natural next step for both Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic.”
“The integration will create new opportunities to access external research funding that is available to institutions with medical schools,” said Carilion Clinic President and CEO Nancy Howell Agee. “That builds on our already strong program and will be good for the students, Virginia Tech, and Carilion because it will lead to increased growth in translational research, connecting the theoretical to our patients’ bedside. It will also help us to continue to attract the very best clinical researchers and their teams.”
Many of the major connections between Carilion and the medical school will continue after the integration. Students will continue to train at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital and elsewhere within the Carilion system. About 300 clinicians at Carilion Clinic will continue to hold dual appointments as professors at the school of medicine, and the two entities will work together to attract and hire expert clinicians to fill future appointments.
The development of the Virginia Tech Carilion Health Sciences and Technology Campus will open up new undergraduate and graduate learning opportunities to benefit both Roanoke- and Blacksburg-based students. Undergraduate students in Blacksburg, for example, will have expanded undergraduate research opportunities in Roanoke (campus shuttles already in place will provide transportation), and medical students in Roanoke will have opportunities for research projects in biomedical-focused research centers and institutes in Blacksburg and the National Capital Region.
Earlier this year, the General Assembly approved a bond package to build a $66 million facility to expand the Virginia Tech Carilion Health Sciences and Technology Campus in Roanoke. Inside this building, research in five strategic growth areas will expand biomedical research in Roanoke and also house related undergraduate and graduate teaching.
The Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute is another component of the Virginia Tech-Carilion partnership, along with the school of medicine. The research institute will continue and expand its role as a cross-university thematic institute at Virginia Tech with a focus on health sciences.
“This vision and true public-private partnership will be made possible through having world-class teaching and faculty supported by both Carilion and Virginia Tech combined with private philanthropic support from those that share the vision and see the potential of providing health care and impactful research that will shape our area and make lives better,” said Charlie Phlegar, Virginia Tech’s vice president for advancement.
The institute will expand its footprint in Roanoke, engaging more researchers from the Blacksburg campus and hiring new research teams with a special focus on bridging health sciences research and clinical practice. The institute will also serve as the faculty hub of a new academic unit, the Department of Biomedical Research, within the school of medicine, thus connecting further the school and research institute.
Based on existing strengths at both Virginia Tech and Carilion, officials Sunday outlined five strategic growth areas for research that will be based at the Virginia Tech Carilion Health Sciences and Technology Campus in Roanoke. They included biomaterials and body-device interfaces, brain health and disease, cardiovascular science, infectious diseases and immunity, and metabolism and obesity.
In its first six years, the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute has gained an international reputation for biomedical and health science research, specifically in the areas of brain research, cardiovascular science, and wound healing. Twenty-five research teams have brought in more than $68 million in current funding from external agencies, which has contributed to more than $140 million in expenditures and resulted in more than $300 million in regional economic impact as well as several start-up companies.
The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine accepted its first class of students in 2010, and three classes have since graduated, with each class having achieved a 100 percent residency match rate. Last year, more than 4,600 applicants vied for 42 positions. All students participate in hypothesis-driven research projects, all have presented at national conferences, and many have been published in peer-reviewed journals.
During the integration process, Virginia Tech will notify and review milestones with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine Board of Directors, and other accrediting or regulatory bodies, including the Liaison Committee on Medical Education.