Community, elected officials celebrate the proposed Meritus School of Osteopathic Medicine during groundbreaking ceremony
HAGERSTOWN, Md. – Community leaders and supporters were joined by elected officials, including Governor Larry Hogan under a sunny sky Tuesday afternoon to celebrate an impressive milestone for a proposed medical school in Hagerstown – a groundbreaking ceremony for the school’s 200,000 square-foot academic medical building.
Officials from Meritus Health, including Maulik Joshi, Dr.P.H., president and CEO, reminded attendees of why the four-year osteopathic medical school is needed at the ceremony.
“There are not enough physicians in the nation, in Maryland, or in our region,” Joshi said. “Maryland is graduating the fewest medical students, per population, in the nation. Our proposed medical school would help reduce this gap by preparing future generations of physicians who are professionally accomplished, socially responsible, and community oriented.”
Governor Hogan provided accolades of Joshi’s leadership and vision to create a local solution to a challenging gap.
“With the toll the pandemic took on our healthcare workforce, we know that there is a pressing need to hire and train more physicians in the future, especially in our rural communities. And today, once again, Meritus is answering the call,” Governor Hogan said.
The future academic building, situated on the existing Meritus Health campus off Robinwood Drive, will boast five stories complete with a conference center, lecture halls, a library, simulation center, virtual and gross anatomy lab and osteopathic manipulative medicine lab.
“This building will support the innovative curriculum being developed by our dean, Dr. Paula Gregory, providing students with state-of-the-art equipment and learning facilities,” Joshi said. “But it is so much more than a building, it’s a commitment to our community that we care about the future of health.”
The construction of an academic building is an important step in the accreditation process.
In early July, Meritus announced plans to officially move forward with the accreditation and licensure process to open a medical school in Hagerstown. Meritus is closely following the guidelines and process outlined by the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA) and Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC).
COCA requires a proposed school to have a dean in place three years before welcoming its first class of students. Dr. Gregory was hired in June, to support Meritus in the pursuit of accreditation and serve as the inaugural dean for the proposed school.
The next requirement, creation of clinical partnerships, has started, with strong support across the region, according to Joshi.
“We continue to find strong partners in the region who are thrilled to hear of our proposed medical school. Many healthcare providers continue to struggle to live up to their missions with the current shortage of physicians. They are looking forward to collaborating with us to support the education of these students through clinical rotations,” he said.
Other requirements include the academic building, developing curriculum, policies and procedures, and hiring faculty and staff. Following that timeline, the proposed Meritus School of Osteopathic Medicine could welcome its first class of students in the fall of 2025.
“To be able to bring an institution of this caliber to our community is an honor for Meritus, and we are thankful for the backing and support of the state and local community. This is a game changer for Washington County and Maryland,” Joshi said.
An independent economic impact study performed by Tripp Umbach shows the proposed Meritus School of Osteopathic Medicine will bring considerable economic impact to the region.
Capital impacts from 2023-2026 are estimated at $268 million dollars, with 1,595 jobs created and estimated tax revenue of $6.2 million dollars.
Once the school welcomes its first class, an estimated $500 million of economic impact is expected between the years of 2025 and 2030, with more than $120 million, per year, to the Maryland GDP every year beyond 2030.
“We know that health, education and the economy are all connected. Improving the economy of our region also enhances the health and wellness of our neighbors,” Joshi said. “We are thrilled to have a project that will improve and enhance so many important factors related to the quality of life in Washington County.”