For-profit medical colleges at the moment are working in U.S.

If Ross University medical students expected to study on the beach, their plans changed in September when Hurricane Maria struck Dominica, the Caribbean country where the charity is located.

The students are currently studying on a cruise ship. Your next stop? Knoxville, Tenn.

The university is moving more than 1,400 students, faculties, and staff to Lincoln Memorial University, a private, not-for-profit facility, after the fall semester is completed aboard the cruise ship. Regulatory approvals are still in progress, Ross spokeswoman Nicole Pride said via email, and although Ross will use the Lincoln Memorial’s space and anatomy lab, it will continue to teach its own curriculum.

Autry OV DeBusk, chairman of the LMU board of trustees, said the Ross students would stay on campus for about a year and that it was the right thing to get them a temporary place after a disaster.

“Helping these students is the right thing to do and we are confident that the people of Knoxville will receive them with open arms,” ​​he said in an email.

The agreement provides for an odd pairing – a nonprofit and a for-profit medical school teaching side by side – but it shows that the presence of for-profit medical schools in mainland America after a long practice of accrediting regulations in which they are banished, foreign coasts are increasing, often in the Caribbean.

The opening of the 2007 Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Colorado ranks as the first not-for-profit medical school established in the United States in modern times, reversing a centuries-old drought of facilities. Ross’ move – if only temporarily – will be the last.

Since 2007, a handful of nonprofit medical schools have emerged in the United States – both those that grant degrees in osteopathic medicine and others that grant degrees of traditional medical doctors. Critics have shunned their corporate structures, academic accuracy, and debt burdens that graduates sometimes incur. Proponents, on the other hand, say that they provide a market need that others will not or will not invest in, especially in rural areas where doctors are in short supply. Colorado Northstate University School of Medicine and Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine in New Mexico are two such examples.

The trickle of for-profit medical schools was made possible by a 1996 court ruling against the American Bar Association that opened up the possibility of accreditation for for-profit law schools. Since this precedent looks like it would benefit nonprofit medical schools as well, medical school accreditors soon abandoned similar guidelines that previously made starting a nonprofit medical school a nonstarter.

Still, the number of for-profit medical schools established in the US has seen a trickle rather than an opening of the floodgates since the 1996 ruling. Some of that is due to stigma and some is due to investment risk, said Eli Adashi, a professor of medicine at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School, who along with two co-authors wrote about for-profit business resurgence programs earlier this year in the Journal the American Medical Association.

“The stigma [surrounding for-profit medical schools] exists, that’s true, ”he said. “Whether or not it is justified is another question.”

Adashi said many of the scars surrounding nonprofit medical schools come from institutions that operated in the United States more than a century ago. In addition, an institution organized as a non-profit organization guarantees neither success nor accuracy.

More importantly, however, it can be a risky business bet when medical schools – which have small classes and need expensive equipment – rely entirely on tuition, making it difficult to start new ones in the U.S., Adashi said. Most nonprofit medical schools have large research activities and land grants that help fund the institutions.

“Not everyone sees this as a huge investment opportunity,” he said.

Still, he believes it is possible for nonprofits to find a place in the medical school market. Nonprofit medical schools, he said, are often similar to nonprofit schools that are not affiliated with large universities.

“The Harvards of the world can do a lot more. And for some people that would be important and a preferred route, ”he said. “There is room for both.”