UNC med school considering branch campus at NHRMC

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NHRMC could become home next year to a UNC School of Medicine branch campus that would allow students to spend their two years of residency at the hospital. File photo.
NHRMC could become home next year to a UNC School of Medicine branch campus that would allow students to spend their final two years of medical school at the hospital. File photo.

New Hanover Regional Medical Center could soon be home to a two-year program for University of North Carolina School of Medicine students.

Continuing its branch campus additions across the state, the UNC School of Medicine is considering establishing such a facility at the local hospital. Such branches are already in place in Asheville and Charlotte.

The proposal arose out of UNC School of Medicine’s longstanding partnership with New Hanover Regional Medical Center (NHRMC), according to Dr. Joseph Pino, the hospital’s Vice President of Graduate Medical Education and President and CEO of South East Area Health Education Center.

For decades, NHRMC teaching physicians–all of whom have UNC faculty titles–have hosted third- and fourth-year medical students for a four-week rotation.

The branch campus would allow those students to stay in Wilmington, and with NHRMC medical faculty and staff, for their final two years.

Pino said the prospect would benefit both students and the hospital.

“Students would have an opportunity to become part of the fabric of the community, and it would allow medical faculty to get to know students very well,” he noted. “From the hospital’s perspective, this is an opportunity for students to learn and really understand the culture of patient care and service that is supported by NHRMC.”

In addition to curriculum–the obvious key focus for students–the longer stay would also provide a better understanding of the hospital’s ongoing efforts at quality improvement and provide an understanding of “some of the foundations for medical leadership,” Pino added.

Even further, he said, it gives medical students a homebase during an often stressful, strenuous time.

“It’s hard for anybody to learn a new job, so to speak, or a new environment…It can be very challenging to go from location to location so, offering this kind of longitudinal experience is good,” he said.

The NHRMC Board of Trustees has already voted in support of the branch campus, but it still needs approval from both the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, which accredits medical schools, and the UNC Board of Governors, which oversees the state’s public university system.

Pending those go-aheads, Pino said NHRMC expects to open the branch campus in March 2016.

Aside from some “minimal personnel recruitment” and designation of study and work space for students during down times, Pino said the infrastructure is in place at the hospital to house the long-term students.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6341 or hilary.s@hometownwilmington.com.