George Mason will study addition of a medical school

George Mason University will study the possibility of launching a medical school near its Science and Technology campus in Manassas. (Courtesy of Prince William County)

George Mason University will study the possibility of launching a medical school in Manassas near its Science and Technology Campus.

The study should be finished by early fall, a news release from Prince William County said. The county is chipping in a $50,000 grant to help fund the study. The Claude Moore Foundation, a Fairfax-based organization that funds education initiatives, is contributing $200,000. The university will pay for the rest. A total cost hasn’t been determined yet.

Prince William County has seen “accelerated growth” in the health care industry, the county’s release stated, attributed in part to Kaiser Permanente’s future hub and ongoing additions to Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center, both in Woodbridge.

“The benefits of a university-research based medical school here in Prince William County are profound,” said Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors.

“It will not only increase educational opportunities and high-wage jobs for our residents, thereby further strengthening our talent pipeline, but it will be a significant move forward in leveraging the synergistic business opportunities that already exist here.”

If GMU decides to move forward on a medical school, it would become the seventh in the state and the first medical school in Northern Virginia. Shenandoah University, a private university in Winchester, studied the possibility of starting a medical school in 2012, but hasn’t launched one.

There are a number of considerations that make it an opportune time for GMU to consider a medical school option, said Bill Hazel, Mason’s senior adviser for strategic initiatives and former health and human resources secretary under Govs. Bob McDonnell and Terry McAuliffe.

There is a national and statewide shortage of physicians, Hazel said.

Plus, Hazel said, GMU will apply for accreditation for the state’s first school of public health soon, which will strengthen a potential pipeline of students. And although the idea of a medical school at GMU has been discussed in the past, there generally seem to be more options now to funnel students into clinical and residency positions necessary to become a practicing doctor, he added.

An initial assessment by Mason estimated a first-year medical school class of 30-50 students and 50-70 faculty, according to the county’s news release.

The study will determine other numbers, including how much it would cost to launch a medical school and where that money could come from.