Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Florida Tech will announce partnership with medical school in January

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In a long-discussed move, the Florida Institute of Technology will soon announce a partnership with a medical school, Interim President Robert King said.

King made the announcement to a ballroom of business leaders during a Melbourne Regional Chamber keynote speech Thursday morning at Crowne Plaza Melbourne-Oceanfront.

King did not divulge further details, and the university communications office declined to elaborate after his speech.

During an August 2020 FLORIDA TODAY interview, King’s predecessor, former Florida Tech president T. Dwayne McCay, said an osteopathic medical school may open in Melbourne in three years.

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“We are about to announce a partnership with a medical school that will be working on our campus and providing pathways into their education for our students,” King told the audience during his Thursday speech.

Today, Florida Tech offers six science and engineering degrees that are considered “premed” programs for medical and veterinary schools, but the university does not offer a major in premedical studies.

Talk of launching a medical school at Florida Tech dates to at least 2016 amid an unprecedented wave of physical expansion at the university and an early online enrollment boom. Those were the days when the Chronicle of Higher Education Almanac listed the university as the nation’s third-fastest growing campus among private nonprofit research institutions.

Florida Tech officials even considered a proposal by an unidentified foundation to create a medical school near campus boasting 140,000 square feet of classroom and research space, according to minutes from a February 2016 Faculty Senate meeting.

That proposal never left the drawing board.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic in August 2020, Florida Tech officials touted a new “unique” medical-student partnership with the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Steward Health Care, which operates Rockledge Regional Medical Center and Melbourne Regional Medical Center.

A small, initial group of nine Burrell College medical students enrolled to conduct clinical rotations at both hospitals and Steward Medical Group clinics. The students moved into Florida Tech off-campus housing and had access to campus facilities and university meal service. The program remains active.

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Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine students speak to Florida Tech assistant professor Kenya Nunes, a vascular biologist, during a 2020 campus tour.

McCay, who had served as Florida Tech’s president since July 2016, resigned in March, saying he wanted to devote more attention to his family.

After Executive Vice President and Provost Marco Carvalho served a brief stint as acting president, King was appointed interim president in June by the Florida Tech board of trustees.

King previously served as Chancellor of the State University of New York (SUNY). He also served as assistant secretary for postsecondary education with the US Department of Education, and he was president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education for 10 years.

Meanwhile, a search committee and a professional search firm remain in the midst of a multi-month search for a permanent president.

Semifinalist interviews are scheduled for December, with finalist interviews and recommendations to the board of trustees expected from January to March.

Florida Tech's new Gordon L. Nelson Health Sciences building opened in mid-August in the Olin Quad.

In mid-August, Florida Tech opened the 61,000-square-foot Gordon L. Nelson Health Sciences building, which was designed to double the size of the undergraduate biomedical engineering program from 150 to 300 full-time on-campus students.

The new biomedical facility in the Olin Quad is also projected to boost undergraduate premedical enrollment from 150 to 250 full-time on-campus students.

“One of the plans for this building is, we’re going to be educating biomedical engineers that go directly into med school. We’re going to be serving medical research, and we’re going to be serving the needs of the population here in Florida through production of physicians,” McCay told FLORIDA TODAY during an August 2020 interview.

University spokesperson Adam Lowenstein said the Gordon L. Nelson Health Sciences building has active classrooms and labs, but the building is not yet at full operational capacity.

Rick Neale is the South Brevard Watchdog Reporter at FLORIDA TODAY (for more of his stories, click here.) Contact Neale at 321-242-3638 or [email protected]. Twitter: @RickNeale1

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