Tower Health of West Reading and Drexel University on Monday marked the start of construction on a four-year regional medical school in Wyomissing that would serve 200 students.
The 150,000-square-foot-campus should be finished by April 2021. Three months after that it expects to admit its first group of students, said Clint Matthews, president and CEO of Tower Health.
The Drexel University College of Medicine at Tower Health is going up on property at The Knitting Mills redevelopment project, the site of the former VF Factory Outlets. The site is in close proximity to Reading Hospital, now owned by Tower Health, which has 714 beds, Matthews said.
The need for the medical campus came about, partially, because of a looming shortfall of physicians.
The American Association of Medical Colleges has estimated that by 2030 the nation would need about 122,000 physicians, Matthews said.
“We need to be training physicians at a high rate as the population ages and baby boomers consume more health care,” Matthews said.
Dr. Daniel Schidlow, dean of the Drexel College of Medicine, said the new campus would help alleviate that shortfall.
The campus is expected to attract students who will have spent a significant amount of time in the community and be likely to continue their education at the hospital and potentially even set up practices in the community, Schidlow said.
“We believe a campus will generate a pipeline of professionals to serve the needs of Berks County and surrounding communities,” Schidlow said. “I think the presence of a four-year medical school will serve as a kernel for further development,” Schidlow said.
In addition, students’ families will visit and shop nearby, he added.
“This is going to be a catalytic change for our community,” said Randy Peers, president and CEO of the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance. “It’s going to have great, long-lasting impacts on our community.”
“Many of these students will plant their roots here and raise their families here,” Peers said.
The medical school has 40 students enrolled already, and will admit another 40 for the next year and by the third, clinical year, add 120, Schidlow said.
The cultures of both Tower Health and Drexel are compatible, he added, noting that the partnership between the two organizations grew quickly.
The campus will include traditional classrooms, non-instructional venues, anatomy labs and simulation labs, as well as a fitness center with indoor and outdoor recreation areas, lounge areas and a café.
The construction firm is LF Driscoll of Bala Cynwd, while Equus Capital Partners of Newtown Square is the firm investing in the project and The S/L/A/M Collaborative of Glastonbury, Connecticut is the architecture firm.
Equus did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the estimated construction cost of the campus.