Feasibility study says $10 million goal is achievable

A feasibility study for a proposed medical school branch at Missouri Southern may have been withheld from the media following recommendations from the president of the company that compiled the report and the president of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce.

The study, finished by National Community Development Services, Inc. in March, was sent to Chamber President Rob O’Brian, University President Bruce Speck and vice president for development Mark Parsons on April 6. In the e-mail, obtained by The Chart as part of an open records request, NCDS President Tom DiFiore said he would “think carefully about providing the newspaper with the full report.” He said he was standing by for a request to present the study to the steering committee, “once there is some resolution with KCUMB…”

The same day, O’Brian replied and agreed with DiFiore’s recommendation.

“We need to hold the full report until we know what the direction is….and that is two weeks away,” he wrote.

The board of trustees at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, the medical school Southern hoped to partner with, voted 14-0 on April 20 against pursuing the proposal.

$10 million goal achievable

The study indicated that a goal of raising $10 million to construct a 40,000 square foot building, which would have been leased to KCUMB, “may be” achievable over a five year period, based on sampling of potential investors and anticipated financial support from other prospects not interviewed. The report recommended a minimum goal of $6.5 million.

Among the 36 individuals interviewed for the study were seven members of the steering committee, which is chaired by Dr. Larry McIntire. Every person surveyed indicated a “highly favorable” impression of the partnership between KCUMB and Southern, and 33 held “highly favorable” impressions of advancing a capital campaign. In addition, 34 interviewees said they were “very confident” in the steering committee.

The study also said at least eight months would be necessary to implement fundraising recommendations, and that a formal fundraising campaign start as soon as an agreement is finalized to bring a medical school to Southern’s campus.

Sense of urgency

The NCDS report also said a “high degree of urgency was indicated” for taking advantage of the opportunity and avoiding possible competition as other medical schools are opened, and that this is a “unique window of opportunity” that may never come again.

“Additionally, the possibility of the KCUMB at MSSU project has been published, the community is eager, and concerns exist that delaying or postponing the project could diminish the focus and momentum the project now enjoys,” the report stated.

Among the 36 interviewed were leaders of local hospitals, Joplin city officials and community leaders. Gary W. Pulsipher, the President and CEO of St. John’s Regional Medical Center, Robert Y. Copeland, CEO of McCune-Brooks and Gary Duncan, CEO of Freeman Health System, joined several other doctors in representing the medical community.

Speck, Board member Nancy Perry and Foundation Board president Don Laferta were among interviewees affiliated with Southern.