College of Medicine 'a bit behind' on August opening

Students and alternates have been selected, some 20,000 cubic yards of concrete have been poured and the curriculum is in place. Now all the new University of Kentucky College of Medicine-Bowling Green campus needs is a home.

Officials from UK, Western Kentucky University and Med Center Health donned hardhats Friday and toured the construction zone that is fast being transformed into the UK College of Medicine’s second satellite campus.

Med Center Health is building the medical school on its campus off the U.S. 31-W By-Pass as part of a $28.3 million project that includes offices for The Medical Center and a five-level, 861-space parking structure.

The second floor of the building, soon to be home to the 24,000-square-foot medical school, was abuzz with activity Friday as employees of contractor Wehr Construction worked feverishly to meet a mid-August target for opening the school.

That target doesn’t align perfectly with the school’s Aug. 6 opening, but the medical school’s leadership has plans in place to ensure the incoming class of 30 won’t miss any instruction.

“We have had a challenging winter, and we’re a little bit farther behind than we would like,” said Todd Cheever, associate dean of the UK College of Medicine-Bowling Green campus. “But we have worked with WKU and Med Center Health to come up with a detailed contingency plan. We’ll use classrooms at WKU and space at the Medical Center.

“The students will start on time and get the same curriculum as students on the Lexington campus.”

The 30 students selected for the school’s first class will have an orientation July 30 and a white coat ceremony Aug. 3 before starting classes.

Those 30 have been selected, said Don Brown, assistant dean of the Bowling Green campus.

“We had an incredible group of applicants,” Brown said. “I’m really impressed. We have 30 selected, and we have an alternate list.”

While he isn’t yet releasing details about the incoming students, Brown expects the makeup of the class to fit with the UK College of Medicine’s original goal of training physicians to help address the state’s shortage of medical professionals.

“Our purpose is to recruit people from Kentucky to train in Kentucky,” he said. “You can be assured that the majority (of the class) will be from Kentucky.”

That’s the idea behind this campus, a College of Medicine satellite already open on the campus of Morehead State University and a planned medical school at Northern Kentucky University.

“Everybody knows the needs in Kentucky,” said Robert DiPaola, dean of the UK College of Medicine. “We’re trying to address health issues like cancer, cardiovascular disease and stroke. There’s a shortage of physicians in Kentucky and in the nation. With this medical college, we wanted to step up and help the state.”

DiPaola explained that the College of Medicine currently has some 550 students between Lexington and Morehead. The Bowling Green campus will add 30 students each year, reaching a total of 120 students in four years. The NKU campus, slated to open next year, will eventually reach 140 students and expand the state’s capacity for training physicians.

Those students, Brown says, will utilize local resources and networking technology to receive the best possible instruction.

“Fifty percent of the instruction will be in small groups,” Brown said. “We’ll use local physicians and faculty from WKU, and some core classes will be beamed in from Lexington. We have spent a lot of money to make sure that goes seamlessly. We hope it will be as close to live as possible.”

The new medical school’s students will have residency opportunities at The Medical Center in various specialties, said Med Center Health Executive Vice President Jean Cherry.

She sees the investment in the medical school as worthwhile.

“We’re trying to meet the needs of people in our region,” Cherry said. “This project will make a difference in the lives of a lot of people.”

​– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit

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