Two former UW Foundation executives are leading a new effort to create an osteopathic medical school in Jefferson after a separate group’s proposal fizzled.
Mark Lefebvre and Jennifer Kidon DeKrey, who each spent about two decades with the foundation that raises money for UW-Madison, are heading up a plan to create the Osteopathic Medical College of Wisconsin, they said Wednesday.
The $125 million project would initially include a $50 million building on 100 acres near Jefferson’s business park, Lefebvre and DeKrey said. The school, supported by donations, gifts and grants, would enroll 150 to 160 students in its first year, in 2018, eventually educating about 600 students at a time, they said.
It would be Wisconsin’s third medical school, joining the UW School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison and Milwaukee’s Medical College of Wisconsin, which plans new campuses in Green Bay in 2015 and central Wisconsin in 2016.
“We’re trying to bring more primary care to underserved areas,” said Lefebvre, who helped raise money for UW medical facilities as vice president for health and life sciences at UW Foundation.
Dr. Robert Golden, dean of the UW medical school, said the idea of another medical school in Wisconsin is “very ill conceived” because there aren’t enough federally-funded residency slots to train doctors after graduation.
“At this point, any new resources for medical training would be much more wisely directed toward residency training,” Golden said.
Lefebvre and DeKrey said they are exploring alternatives to federal funding for residencies, saying the slots could be supported by donations or state funding.
Many Wisconsin students who don’t get into Wisconsin’s two medical schools go to medical schools in other states and end up practicing there, they said. The osteopathic school could keep many here.
“This is a tide that raises all boats,” said DeKrey, former chief financial officer for UW Foundation. “We’re not in any way trying to threaten the two existing medical schools.”
The Jefferson City Council met Wednesday for an informational session on the proposal. No action was taken, but Mayor Dale Opperman, a supporter of bringing a medical school to Jefferson, said the city could gift some land to the school if it successfully moves forward.
“At this point it’s kind of preliminary. It was mentioned as a possibility as this project evolves,” he said, adding, “but that would be based on future negotiations and benchmarks that would be achieved.”
The board of a newly formed corporation for the new school is led by Fred Rikkers, a Madison-area attorney. Two osteopathic doctors are also on the board.
Osteopathic doctors are like other doctors, but they focus on disease prevention and sometimes do hands-on manipulations. Many practice in rural areas.
The previously proposed Wisconsin College of Osteopathic Medicine was initially proposed in Wausau in 2011 and then last year in Jefferson, where it was going to be at the former St. Coletta property, now called Sanctuary Ridge.
The plan had financial troubles and leadership changes.
After Dr. Gregg Silberg was released as leader of the effort last year, another organizer said the group spent $250,000 the city contributed mostly on Silberg’s salary and legal expenses. In August, organizers said they had no money left to do a feasibility study.
Wisconsin has a projected shortage of nearly 2,200 doctors by 2030, according to a 2011 report by the Wisconsin Hospital Association.
State Journal reporter Jeff Glaze contributed to this report.