Southern renews talks with med school


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Lisa Cambridge, KCUMB Public Relations Director

Officials at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences are again exploring the possibility of placing a satellite medical school in Joplin.

KCUMB Public Relations Director Lisa Cambridge confirmed Wednesday that members of the school’s “strategic expansion taskforce” have been in Joplin to explore the possibility of placing an additional medical school campus in the city.

Missouri Southern Vice President of Academic Affairs Pat Lipira said that task force toured Southern’s campus last week.

“[They asked] ‘Is it feasible to have a satellite school on your campus?’” she said. “So they came down, and I think they were very impressed. I think we have some things that I think a lot of schools with bachelors degrees don’t have, for example, the new labs in Ummel [Hall, technology]. We have a cadaver lab which I think they were impressed with.”

A previous plan for a medical school partnership between KCUMB and Missouri Southern dissolved in the 2009-10 school year when the potential location of a building for the school, the northeast corner of Duquesne and Newman roads, was met with opposition. Students, instructors and Missouri conservationists expressed concern that the location was a remnant prairie and therefore a biological necessity.

Also helping to halt the process was the firing of then KCUMB president, Karen Pletz.

Cambridge said KCUMB is also working with the City of Joplin’s contracted master developer for tornado redevelopment, Wallace Bajjali Development Partners.

“They are among the business leaders that we have been talking with … They did make a presentation to us,” Cambridge said.

David Wallace, chief executive officer of the Wallace Bajjali Development firm, made a presentation to the Joplin City Council at its meeting on Jan. 14, telling the council that his firm was working with an unnamed medical school and that it planned to bring the school to the current site of the Joplin Public Library.

Wallace told the council that the school, which he would not name, was expected to make a decision on whether or not to expand into Joplin at the school’s board meeting three months from now.

Cambridge and Lipira both said that KCUMB hopes to make a decision by April of this year.

Wallace has not confirmed that KCUMB is the only school his firm is courting. Wallace did not return The Chart’s call before press time.

“Right now KCUMB is exploring all potential options,” Cambridge said. “So that does include the possibility of partnering with Missouri Southern. We’re just looking at every possible avenue at this point.”

She also said Joplin is the first location the task force is exploring for potential expansion.

Lipira said that if KCUMB decided to partner with Southern and establish a satellite school on campus, a new building would have to be constructed using private donor funds.

Lipira also said she is not concerned that the situation would become competitive between Southern and the developer or the school, should KCUMB choose to locate downtown instead of on MSSU’s campus.

“Having a medical school in Joplin would be wonderful, regardless of where it’s located. We think it’d be great for the City of Joplin,” Lipira said. “If they [KCUMB] decide that the location is better here, fine. If they decide that it’s good to be in downtown Joplin, fine. So, they’re just looking at what’s best for them.”