Utah’s second medical school opens doors in southern Utah
by Holly Coombs
University of Utah has the first medical school and 112 years later, Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine marks the second Utah has a second medical school to open in this state as its grand opening took place last Friday in Ivins, Utah.
The school may have just opened, but was 50 years in the making as Thomas Told, Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine dean and Chief academic officer, had big dreams to open the school over the decades. Told grew up in rural Utah and had aspirations of opening a school in an area similar to where he grew up.
“I finished up my education in Northern Utah, but my heart was always down here,” Told said. “People have to go elsewhere to train, and it shouldn’t be that way. Every year, 400 students leave Utah to go elsewhere for careers.”
In 2006, Rocky Vista University in Parker, Colorado opened, which Told joined and brought his vision to Utah with new campus marking the University’s second campus.
“I had to go to Colorado first to make what I had been wanting for so long here in Utah,” Told said.
With the opening of the Ivins campus, Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine President and Chief Executive Officer Clinton Adams said the school will open opportunity for students within Utah to stay in their home state to complete their degrees and even remain in the state for their careers.
With school beginning Monday, more than 100 students are enrolled, more than 50 percent of them are from Utah universities, Vice Dean David Park said. The university, which is still under completion, will eventually be equipped to hand 250 students year-round when finished.
“We have interviewed nearly 300 top-tier applicants and gone through 2,000 plus applications and I can assure you that the students coming here are truly exceptional,” Park said.
He said the students come from 24 different countries and 50 percent of the applicants are from Utah schools including 26 from Brigham Young University, 14 from the University of Utah, 11 from Southern Utah University, 10 from Utah State University, 11 from Utah Valley University and five from Weber State University.
“Although this was our vision, this was not our bias in selection,” he said. “These students were not chosen for their resident state, but by their rigorous academic standings. This is a testament to Utah’s quality of students so today is a celebration of Utah’s excellence education system.”
Park asked those involved in Utah education to stand and be applauded.
The addition of the students, faculty and staff is something Ivins Mayor Chis Hart said he’s most excited for, since the move-ins will provide a brightness and “forward-thinking” mindsets.
“We’re a population of 10,000, and there are almost no communities of our size that can boast they have a medical school,” Hart said. “So it gives us some bragging rights.”
SUU President Scott L. Wyatt said he is proud to be a partner to the medical school.
“This medical school will stand as a monument of possibilities, a place of dreams that just having this located here is a constant reminder to the youth of southern Utah that they can actually go to medical school,” Wyatt said. “More people … will stretch into this difficult profession.”
The two-story, 104,000 square-foot school building includes two, 200-seat lecture halls, 36 study rooms, a simulation center, standardized patient rooms and a 9,000 square-foot library. The campus also has two student housing buildings.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert commented on the state’s milestone via video message.
“As our state’s population continues to grow, the need for physicians continues to grow (with it),” Gov. Gary Herbert said “And starting today, more Utah students will be able to stay in their home state while pursuing their medical education.”
Elder Steven E. Snow, general authority seventy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave the dedicatory prayer blessing the faculty, students and the building that great things would come from the new medical school.
“We dedicate this site to be a safe place of learning,” Snow said. “We bless this place to be safe from the ravages of nature. That these buildings will stand for generations, to bless those who will study here. We dedicate the foundation, the baring walls, all components of this structure to bear up under the pressures of time and external influences.”
He dedicated the College of Osteopathic Medicine to be a place of service in the community and to all who visit it.
“We pray that this place will serve well the needs of faculty, staff and especially students, who will study and learn here,” Snow said. “We dedicate this place to the teaching of medicine; may it always be a place of compassionate teaching and learning. We pray this school will bless the medical profession with well-trained and qualified physicians who will provide medical care to patients throughout the country.”
He continued to pray that the school would be a blessing to graduates, that they would leave with much knowledge and having hearts full of compassion.