Thursday, May 1, 2014

UVI Receives Largest Gift Ever to Develop New Medical School

 Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria speaks, as honored guests look on. Seated from left: Schneider Regional Medical Center CEO Dr. Bernard Wheatley, Juan F. Luis Hospital CEO Dr. Kendall Griffith, Boston University School of Medicine Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs and Director of the Office of Medical Education Dr. John Wiecha, Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone, Governor John P. de Jongh Jr., and UVI President Dr. David Hall.
When Dr. David Hall was inaugurated as the University of the Virgin Island’s president in 2010, he asked the UVI community to share his vision of greatness. On April 25, one of those visions moved closer to reality when UVI announced a $30 million gift for the development stage of a medical school in the territory. Both the gift and the medical school are historic for UVI and the Virgin Islands.

“There are times when a compelling vision is delayed because of the absence of resources, both human and capital,” said Dr. Hall at the Government House announcement. “There are times when a compelling need goes unaddressed because we are not courageous enough to overcome our fears of failure. There are times when progress is held captive by the forces of doubt and division.” He continued, “This day has been ushered into existence because the University, working collaboratively with so many dedicated individuals and institutions, had created a vision, secured critical capital resources, conquered our fears and is now ready to step out on faith so that we can help enhance the quality of healthcare in the Virgin Islands, and thus improve the lives of so many individuals in the territory.”

The $30 million gift was made by New Generation Power (NGP) and its Chairman, Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria and was announced one week after a unanimous vote by the UVI Board of Trustees allowing President Hall to commence the development phase for the medical school that UVI will develop in partnership with the Territory’s two hospitals – Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas and Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix.

“This is a historic day in the life of the University of the Virgin Islands and the Virgin Islands,” said President Hall. “Dr. Kathuria’s gift is the largest in the history of the University, and its impact will last for generations to come. Many Virgin Islanders will receive improved healthcare because of this generous gift,” he said.

VI Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. and UVI President David Hall
Discussion and planning for the medical school began in 2010 with the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), which has been very instrumental in helping UVI move in this direction. Some BUSM students have been taking their fourth year electives at Schneider Regional Medical Center for the last two spring semesters.

“We congratulate our UVI colleagues on this generous gift,” said Dr. Karen Antman, dean of the Boston University School of Medicine. “The development of a medical school will attract medical faculty to the islands and foster collaboration among VI hospitals,” Dr. Antman said. “Graduates will consider establishing practices in the VI, raising the number of physicians and improving access to health care.”

The goal of the project is to develop a high-quality medical education program that relies heavily on the use of innovative teaching techniques, educational technology, and community care training that produces knowledgeable and caring physicians committed to helping the Virgin Islands’ communities, President Hall explained. This transformative endeavor for the VI and the University will present an opportunity for the Territory to establish the only English-speaking medical school in the Caribbean accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), the group that accredits medical schools in the United States and Canada.

According to President Hall, LCME-accreditation will ensure that UVI develops a high quality medical school that operates according to the highest academic standards. A medical school in the Virgin Islands would enhance the quality of healthcare, help address the nation’s and Territory’s anticipated physician workforce shortages in the future, help populate the physician workforce in the VI and Caribbean with the regions’ own residents and citizens, and contribute to economic development.

Dr. Kathuria, a global entrepreneur and innovator, has founded and built multiple businesses that have generated shareholder wealth and created numerous jobs worldwide. He founded NGP, a global developer, investor, owner and operator of infrastructure assets in three key areas – utility scale power generation, distributed generation, and mining exploration and extraction. Recently, NGP, a Chicago-based renewable energy company, together with UVI, signed a landmark power purchase agreement for a solar panel project on UVI’s two campuses.

Dr. Kathuria, who holds a medical degree, in describing his motivation for the gift said: “We are honored to be part of this historic endeavor that will significantly improve the healthcare of the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Our goal with the USVI medical school is to establish new trends in providing health care using advanced technology, such as remote healthcare monitoring and diagnoses, and cutting edge research that could lead to improved health outcomes for people globally.”

“Always try to make the world a little better place before you leave,” said Dr. Kathuria quoting his father. “We hope that what we’re doing here will help improve the quality of life of all the people of the Virgin Islands.”

Virgin Islands Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. has also committed to help provide funding for the medical school, creating a public and private partnership that President Hall said is essential for success.

UVI Board of Trustees Chairman Alexander A. Moorhead, VI Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr., Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria, and UVI President David Hall pose for a photo at Government House.
“By approving the development of the medical school just last week and endorsing the gift agreement with Dr. Kathuria of New Generation Power, the UVI Board of Trustees has taken a major step forward in the development of the Virgin Islands,” Gov. de Jongh, Jr. said. “The Virgin Islands is truly fortunate to be eligible for accreditation of its planned medical school. America's Liaison Committee on Medical Education is the accreditation body for medical schools in the United States and Canada, and it would also extend its authority to the Virgin Islands, as the only English-speaking United States territory in the Caribbean,” he continued. “This advantage over every other medical school in the Caribbean will put UVI's Medical School on the map and ensure its success.”

“I fully expect that the opening of the medical school will change the health care landscape of the Virgin Islands, as well as enhance the University of the Virgin Islands’ reputation as the preeminent learning institution in the region,” Gov. de Jongh added.

Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen, Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone, some senators of the 30th Legislature and UVI President Emeritus Dr. Orville Kean were on hand for announcement.

“We are in support of having this medical school and stand ready to assist the University and administration in this endeavor,” said Sen. Malone of himself and his colleagues in the 30th Legislature. He noted the positive economic impact that the medical school will have on the territory.

Delegate Christensen said her office has reached out to the U.S. Economic Development Administration at the Department of Commerce, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the Congressional Research Office to seek what funding would be available for construction purposes. “We look forward to working with all concerned to the fruition of this establishment of a University of the Virgin Islands School of Medicine,” she said.

“Establishing a medical school in the United States Virgin Islands will give this Territory an opportunity to grow its own qualified doctors and workforce that will help alleviate the future healthcare needs in the territory,” said Schneider Regional Medical Center CEO Dr. Bernard Wheatley.

“We at the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital are excited and primed to do our part to ensure that this medical school will be a success,” said Juan F. Luis Hospital (JFL) CEO Dr. Kendall Griffith. “Dr. Hall you have at your side very qualified and dedicated physicians who are ready and eager to create an academic environment at JFL.”

“I am very excited about this,” said Kimberlee Smith, UVI Student Government Association President on the St. Thomas Campus. “Not only will the medical school bring students to the University of the Virgin Islands, but it will expose students already enrolled at UVI to the medical field. Dr. Hall is doing an awesome job.”

She continued, “This is an opportunity to bring more people into the Virgin Islands.”

“I am really glad it came into fruition in such a short time,” said Kevin Dixon, UVI SGA President on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix. “I am really glad that it is going to benefit students and the territory as a whole.”

Dr. Kathuria’s gift will allow UVI to begin the development stage, which includes creating a curriculum, developing affiliation agreements with the hospitals and clinics, developing partnerships with other medical schools and hospitals, and commencing the accreditation process with the LCME. UVI will create an endowment fund that will provide continuous funding for the medical school. UVI is currently in talks with Dr. Benjamin Sachs to act as dean of the new medical school. He is former dean of the Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, La.

Securing additional development and operational funding remains a goal for the project. The University estimates that $10 million from local and national donors is still needed to make the medical school a reality. Tuition costs are estimated to be below market for Caribbean medical schools and UVI hopes to enroll its first class in 2016-2017.

UVI had collaborated with NGP before. Last August, UVI entered into a power purchase agreement with NGP to build a three-megawatt photovoltaic system that is expected to produce 4.5 million kilowatt-hours annually. The system will use approximately 4.2 acres on the St. Thomas Campus and 3.9 acres of the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix.