Few details offered, but medical school at Louisiana College said to be on track for 2013

PINEVILLE -- Officials say plans for Louisiana College's medical school are on track and that the school should welcome students in the 2013-14 academic year.

They also say they are unable to disclose specifics of key parts of the plan. 

 "I can't speak specifically, because it's individual donors and it's all in the conceptual model," said Paul O. Umbach from Pittsburgh, Pa.-based Tripp Umbach, the main consulting firm on the project. 

Another firm, Flood International Consulting, which last year had a main role in the project and gave a detailed timeline for the school in September 2009, now has a minimal role with fundraising, officials said.

Umbach said he is optimistic about the school's fundraising efforts for the medical school.

"There is a lot of excitement in the community for having a medical school. All of that leads to our confidence that we would be able to raise the initial money locally," Umbach said.

He also said the business model for the medical school is "affordable and doable."

While Umbach would not provide an estimated price tag for the school, he said the school needs about $5 million over a three-year period in startup costs, under $20 million for renovations of the state-owned Huey P. Long Medical Center building in Pineville and about $20 million in annual operating costs.

Officials said there appears to be several misconceptions surrounding costs for the project. Some people suggest it will be much higher than it will be, officials said.

"We are not in the position at this stage that we are going to disclose the business model, which we have," Umbach said. "All we can say is that we've developed a medical school model for Central Louisiana that will leverage the resources of the other hospitals and health-care infrastructure."

An initial plan, released in July 2009, called for $100 million in startup costs, including $70 million for a new facility. But with the possibility of setting up operations in the Huey P. Long facility, costs have changed. "We have some of that [startup costs] already from an anonymous donor" from Louisiana, Umbach said.

One rumor officials said they would like to dispel is that Louisiana College has plans to open a hospital.

"That's important to get out there because we heard that some in the community think we are going to be running a hospital. That was never a discussion," LC President Joe Aguillard said.

Officials emphasized that the school's only plan is to develop a medical school.

The hospital rumor may stem from the fact that the school is considering the current Huey P. Long Medical Center facility as a potential site for the school. If that comes to pass, it has been suggested, the hospital would move its operations to England Airpark next to Alexandria International Airport.

If using Huey P. Long doesn't not come to fruition, officials said, plan B would be to use some the school-owned property near the college or look into state property. Umbach did not say where some of those properties are located.

As for a name for the medical school, during a telephone interview Nov. 29, Aguillard said a name being considered was Southern Baptist School of Medicine.

But on Friday, Umbach and Aguillard indicated a different name.

"The name right now is the Louisiana College School of Medicine. I wouldn't even say being considered, it is the name right now," Umbach said, adding there is a chance that the name could change.

"If somebody would like to purchase naming rights, which is very common with medical schools, that would be an option," Umbach said.

Officials also said the process to find a dean for the school is pending. "That is an upcoming step to search for a dean for the medical school that's going to be an early 2011 process," Umbach said.

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