Quinnipiac University in neighboring Hamden will open a new medical school—one that will focus more on teaching than research and on primary care rather than specialty fields, President John L. Lahey, Ph.D., announced in January. 

The school, to be built on Quinnipiac’s North Haven campus at a cost of $75 million, would become the third medical school in the state following those at Yale and the University of Connecticut. North Haven is already home to Quinnipiac’s School of Health Sciences, which awards degrees to physician assistants, nurse practitioners, physical therapists, radiologist assistants, and occupational therapists. “Quinnipiac has a long history of preparing health care professionals,” said Lahey, “so a medical school is a logical next step for us.” The new institution will also add to a national mini-boom of 12 to 15 new or proposed medical schools. 

School of Medicine Dean Robert J. Alpern, M.D., said that the new school would be complementary to rather than competitive with Yale. “I think it’s the right way to start a medical school,” said Alpern, Ensign Professor of Medicine, who has offered Lahey advice and support. “When he first told me about it I was surprised, but as I’ve come to understand what they’re doing, it makes great sense.” 

Quinnipiac’s medical school will differ from Yale in its focus on primary care. “Everyone agrees that there is a shortage of primary care doctors now and that there is going to be a massive shortage in the future,” said Alpern. Quinnipiac will encourage students to enter primary care both through its admissions process and by funneling financial aid to students who express interest in primary care, Lahey said. 

In addition, first- and second-year students will get hands-on experience in emergency rooms or community clinics, and students will go to hospitals in the developing world to help provide basic health care. “Our hope is that experiences here and abroad will inspire them to go into primary care medicine,” said Lahey, adding that Quinnipiac’s health programs already have affiliations with clinics and other health care institutions in Costa Rica, Gabon, Haiti, and Nicaragua. 

Though the new medical school will be an unknown quantity, Lahey isn’t worried about attracting students. He expects to welcome the first class of about 50 students in 2013 or 2014. Admissions will eventually reach 125 entrants per year. 

One of Quinnipiac’s challenges will be securing partnerships to ensure clinical instruction and rotations for its students. Slots in New Haven’s hospitals, especially Yale-New Haven Hospital, are already filled by Yale medical students. But Quinnipiac has had encouraging meetings with hospital administrators in Bridgeport, Danbury, Middletown, and Hartford, said Lahey. 

Alpern doesn’t expect the new school to have any negative effects on Yale. “I think it’s good for the country and good for the state of Connecticut,” he said. “We need more doctors. The more universities that want to get into the game, the better.”