Hackensack University Health Network and Seton Hall University announced Tuesday that they have signed a definitive agreement to form their recently announced four-year school of medicine.
And while the binding legal document is an important part of the process of creating the first private medical school in the state, it is just another step in the goal of bringing in the first class in the fall of 2017.
Next up are the hiring of a dean and a finalization of the lease agreement on the site, the former Roche property that straddles both Nutley and Clifton.
Those announcements should clear the way for the groups to get the needed Liaison Committee on Medical Education approval to open the school.
Both Hackensack University Health Network CEO Robert C. Garrett and Seton Hall President A. Gabriel Esteban recognize they are moving at great speed, but both welcome the challenge.
“It’s a tight timeline, but we set out with aggressive goals to begin with,” Esteban said.
Garrett said the support they have received makes him feel they can put all the pieces in place in a short time.
“The need for the school is well established,” he said, “and there has been tremendous support for the school in the state.
“Every group we speak to, local municipal leaders, business leaders, legislators have been very supportive. They see the value that will come to the state.
“There are not that many issues that unite a community, but this one has done it.”
Both Garrett and Esteban say the depth of the project has helped build its tremendous backing. The school will be just a small part of a campus that will include a research center.
“It’s not just about the med school; it’s about what the med school will bring with it,” Esteban said. “It will become a magnet for other businesses. As we build a research agenda, it will become an attractive hub for a bunch of enterprises.
Garrett said the project will bring 300 jobs and 400 construction jobs to the area.
“We’re going to be the anchor tenant of a major redevelopment project,” he said.
Because of it, the groups are working with the state to see if the project qualifies for any awards or grants.
But first things first: They need to hire a dean.
Both men said the process is still in the first phase, but many top candidates already have been identified by their search firm.
“We’ll be starting to interview in the coming weeks,” Garrett said. “The hope is to have founding dean on board this fall.”
The dean, Esteban said, will then need to hire vice presidents for academics and curriculum and another for student affairs. A faculty will come next, followed by the planning of the curriculum.
The hope, they said, is to have all of that done by next spring, enabling them to get the LCME approval by next May.
Both men feel the final lease agreement will be done by this summer.
“We just have to finalize the terms and scrutinize them,” Garrett said. “It’s a complicated transaction — that’s why it probably won’t be finalized until this summer — but I don’t see any major issues. There’s been a lot of discussion.”
There’s been a lot of discussion in both organizations, with both leaders saying the reaction from their staffs have been encouraging and positive.
And the talk, apparently, is going well outside the Garden State.
“I was in California recently and the first thing they asked was, ‘Tell us about the med school,’ ” Esteban said. “And I wasn’t there to talk about it.
“We have two very strong partners with excellent reputations and that has caught the attention of a lot of people throughout the country.”
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