Peyton's Struggles: FSU Medical School

January 5, 2009 14 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

?Medical students at Florida State could be training in Jacksonville as early as July. The school plans to offer electives at the Mayo Clinic as well as a family practice rotation at St. Vincent's Medical Center. Florida State has plans to open a regional campus in Jacksonville for up to 20 students but has not determined when it might open.?Florida Times Union 12/07/04

The FSU College of Medicine focuses on educating outstanding physicians for practice in community settings. Community-based clinical education spans the four-year curriculum. During the first two years, students’ clinical education takes place in physician practices in the Tallahassee area, as well as in the medical school’s Clinical Learning Center. In the third and fourth years, students complete their required clinical rotations at one of the medical school’s six regional campuses, located in Orlando, Pensacola, Sarasota, Tallahassee, Daytona Beach and Fort Pierce. In these urban centers and the surrounding rural areas, the clinical training program extends into hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, managed care organizations, private clinics and other outpatient settings.


In 2000, the Florida Legislature created the Florida State University College of Medicine in Tallahassee, the state's first new medical school in 35 years.  The legislation also called for the creation of branch medical campuses in Pensacola, Sarasota, Tallahassee, Orlando, and Jacksonville.

The opening of branch campuses went on, as according to plan, until it was time for Jacksonville's turn.  News of a Jacksonville snubbing would come to light in a February 2006 post by a Metro Jacksonville forum member:


FSU turns to Daytona after Jacksonville snubbing

 The law that created the Florida State University College of Medicine in 2000 dictates where its five branch campuses must be located: Pensacola, Orlando, Sarasota, Fort Myers and Jacksonville.

 The college has, until this year, followed that plan closely, deviating only from Fort Myers with a plan to start a clinic in nearby Immokalee. So when university President T.K. Wetherell showed up in Daytona Beach last week to forge partnerships with the largest public health-care provider and community college to build a branch here, it begged the question: What about Jacksonville?

 "Jacksonville has not been eager to embrace us," Wetherell said in an interview with The News-Journal. He added that the school might consider discussing it further with the city, but he doesn't feel strictly bound by the law to limit his options to just Jacksonville.

 And with a full class of students getting ready to enter the college next year, FSU will need new branch campuses -- where third- and fourth-year students train -- up and running by 2008.

 By talking turkey with Daytona Beach and Fort Pierce, another East Coast locale where FSU is considering building a branch, Wetherell has positioned FSU nicely with lawmakers, whose support will be needed to fund the expansion. He specifically mentioned support from three.

 Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville, serves a district that stretches to Daytona Beach, as does Sen. Evelyn Lynn, chair of the Education Committee. Meanwhile, another key contact, Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, represents the Fort Pierce area.

 That should clear the way for Daytona Beach and Fort Pierce, but still leaves that puzzling question about Florida's largest city, why wouldn't Jacksonville want Florida State's branch campus?

 Susie Wiles, a spokeswoman for Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton, said Friday she had not heard any talk of a FSU medical school in Jacksonville, while a Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman would only say she could not say whether there was or was not interest.

 Jacksonville is the site of a University of Florida/Shands hospital.


As the story evolved, it became clear that FSU wanted its campus to be affiliated with Mayo Clinic.  However, this was not possible because Mayo Clinic already has its own medical school.  After a flood of emails from stunned Jacksonville residents, Mayor Peyton eventually sent a letter to FSU's president indicating his willingness to help find a suitable location for FSU in Jacksonville.

 A March 3, 2006 Jacksonville Business Journal Article:

But there are great opportunities in Jacksonville for FSU, and Mayo is not averse to helping out, Smith said. "We just can't be their only partner in Jacksonville."

 Smith contacted the mayor's office in February to alert the city of FSU's interest. On Feb. 15, Mayor John Peyton sent a letter to FSU president T.K. Wetherell indicating his willingness to help FSU find a home in Jacksonville.

 "Jacksonville has a proud tradition of partnerships with medical institutions and we would welcome a Florida State University presence in our community," Peyton wrote.

 Peyton tapped Ron Barton, executive director of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission, to be the point of contact. Barton did not return phone calls from The Business Journal seeking comment.

 As of March 1, Harris had had one conversation with someone in the mayor's office about the possibility of a future campus.

 Daytona Beach, meanwhile, was very receptive to being a part of the FSU program, Harris said.

Unfortunately, by this time, the early bird had already caught the worm, according to the Orlando Sentinel:  

FSU's medical school plans Daytona branch

  Florida State University has cemented plans to open a new medical school branch in Daytona Beach, partnering with Daytona Beach Community College and Halifax Medical Center.

 The branch, which will serve 40 third- and fourth-year FSU medical students, is expected to open in 2008 on the community college campus.

 FSU and Halifax have had a partnership since 2004. While the affiliation was originally established to allow students to do rotations at the hospital's family medicine residency program, students in the last two years of training will now be in the area full time, studying in a variety of areas.

 "I think there's a general consensus that it's a great hospital," said Nancy Kinnally, spokeswoman for FSU's College of Medicine.

 The plan is to build a two-story structure that would house FSU's medical school program and a master's degree program. DBCC already offers its students associate and bachelor's degrees.  archive section

While this series of events should not be blamed on Peyton's administration alone, it did highlight what happens when a community becomes passive in the chase for economic development.  This sentiment would later be acknowledged in a March 2006 Jacksonville Business Journal editorial:


More effort needed to reach potential

  We missed a good opportunity to establish a satellite campus for Florida State University's medical school in Jacksonville.

 The school would have added little in quantity of dollars spent or employees hired, the traditional measures of a project's merit, but much in prestige.

 We are on our way to being one of the premier providers of health care in the Southeast, if not the country, and a satellite facility would have furthered our reputation. Instead, we let the opportunity pass with little pursuit and it has ended up in Daytona Beach, which helps Northeast Florida but not to the extent that a Jacksonville location would have done given the concentration of health-care facilities near the urban core.

 We understand Mayo Clinic's reasons for not participating with FSU at this time but wonder why there was not a greater interest on the part of other area hospitals. We also question why economic development officials did not pursue the opportunity more aggressively.

 We applaud Mayor John Peyton for offering to help FSU but his letter seems trivial when one considers that the university received a lackluster response from the community as a whole, particularly compared with the vigor with which Daytona pursued the opportunity. We hope that FSU will give us another chance in the future and that we are more assertive.

 We urge our leaders to pursue future opportunities more vigorously, lest other communities overcome us in the fierce battle for health-care and biotechnology projects. These industries are vital to society's long-term prospects and generate a wealth of jobs and capital investment. Therefore, we must make our community as attractive as possible.

Whatever the case may have been that led FSU to spurn Jacksonville for Daytona Beach, we as a community should push our officials to aggressively pursue future opportunities when they present themselves.