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Future Hackensack University Health Network-Seton Hall medical school heralded as 'game-changer'

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Seton Hall President A. Gabriel Esteban shakes hands with Gov. Chris Christie at the news conference formally announcing plans for a new medical school in North Jersey.
Seton Hall President A. Gabriel Esteban shakes hands with Gov. Chris Christie at the news conference formally announcing plans for a new medical school in North Jersey. - ()

On Thursday, Hackensack University Health Network and Seton Hall University formally announced their plans to start the state's first four-year, private medical school on the campus of the former Roche headquarters in Nutley and Clifton.

Alongside Seton Hall President A. Gabriel Esteban, Hackensack CEO and President Robert C. Garrett called the plan a “game-changer” and an “absolutely monumental event.”

“We know that, with this partnership, we will be able to rival the best of the best,” Garrett said.

The future school will be the anchor tenant of the 119-acre property that’s situated approximately 5 miles from both Hackensack and Seton Hall.

RELATED: Rowan dean wishes new North Jersey medical school good luck

Project organizers aim to make the school a conduit for a world-class research facility that will attract researchers and pharmaceutical companies of all sizes to the campus.

”This is a great day for everybody here,” U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson) said. “You can feel the electricity. New Jersey needs days like this.”

Officials hope that the inaugural class of approximately 125 to 150 students can enter in the fall of 2017; the official name of the institution has yet to be determined.

It is too soon to know just how many jobs will be created because of the vast scope of the project, but Hackensack and Seton Hall officials said the school alone could create 400 to 500 jobs. Hundreds of other jobs could also be created through the other outlets on the campus, both said.

The developer of the project, to be selected by Roche, has not been announced, but those same officials said it has been made clear by Roche that the medical school will get favorable lease terms as well as a large say in how the rest of the campus is developed.

RELATED: Health care industry reacts to news of new medical school

Hackensack and Seton Hall, which will share all capital costs 50-50, figure to invest “hundreds of millions of dollars in the first 10 years” to get things going, Hackensack officials said.

Garrett said the partnership plans on working with the Economic Development Authority to explore all funding avenues.

Gov. Chris Christie heralded the partnership and commended Garrett and Esteban for their leadership in turning it into a reality.

Though the Hackensack and Seton Hall venture will be the state’s first private medical school, Christie noted that it follows the lead of other successful partnerships, such as the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in Camden and the Rutgers-UMDNJ merger.

“We know that by continuing to grow our academic core, we will grow our economic core as well,” Christie said.

RELATED: Hackensack University Health Network, Seton Hall to create medical school on former Roche campus

The school will offer programs in numerous disciplines, but will have an emphasis on producing doctors in areas of acute need (primary care, general surgery, OB/GYN) in an effort to combat the projected shortfall of doctors in New Jersey and around the country.

Physicians and other health officials from the announced merger of Hackensack-Meridian Health Network will be a large part of the faculty. And while Hackensack University Medical Center figures to be the most heavily represented (due to its size and proximity to the location), officials from all 11 of the hospitals in the still-being-approved merger will be used. All 11 entities will become teaching hospitals.

Seton Hall is working on plans to relocate its School of Nursing and its School of Applied Medical Sciences to the facility.

This includes its programs in Physician Assistance, Athletic Training, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Speech and Language Pathology along with a Master’s in Health Administration and a Ph.D. in Health Sciences (research).

The move, still being worked on, would open up more space on the school’s main South Orange campus and also open up more room in its programs.

“If I had the space, I could increase enrollment in our allied health programs by 20 percent without any dip in the level of admissions,” Esteban previously told NJBIZ.

Creating a world-class research facility is a main goal — one made possible by the millions of dollars of state-of-the-art and ready-to-go research rooms already on the campus, thanks to Roche’s more than 80 years at the site,

Garrett said he is hopeful that both big and little pharma companies in the state will be encouraged to participate and collaborate. And he would welcome working with more universities, as well, noting Hackensack already collaborates in research with Georgetown, a school he indicated would have interest in relocating some researchers to the area.

In addition to creating space for research, parts of the property likely will be developed for housing and a hotel as well as some small retail.

The involved parties will look toward the spring to sign a definitive agreement and then, while construction begins to retrofit the existing facilities and potentially build some others, the groups will work to obtain the necessary accreditations to open a school — a process that figures to last at least a year, into summer 2016.

At the same time, the parties involved will be working on setting up the logistics of the school: hiring a dean and a preclinical faculty, developing a curriculum and all things associated with student life, including selecting the first class.

“I think we’re on course,” Pascrell said. “I think this is a plus-plus for all of us.”

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Andrew George

Andrew George


Andrew George covers the Statehouse from NJBIZ's Trenton bureau. Born and raised in N.J., Andrew has also spent time as a reporter in D.C., Texas and Pa. His email is andrewg@njbiz.com.

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