EDUCATION

Cooper Medical School Opens to Great Fanfare

This morning, Gov. Chris Christie joined more then 300 community and political leaders to celebrate the grand opening of Cooper Medical School of Rowan University.

“I’ve gotten lots of compliments from the speakers today, and I appreciate that. But I feel like all I’m doing is doing what i promised i would do when i ran for this job, which was to put greater attention to the areas of this state that had not gotten sufficient attention over the course of time,” Christie said. “And I know when folks from here in South Jersey hear that from a guy in North Jersey, they say, ‘Yeah, sure.’ So I knew that I had a big hill to climb and we’re still in the midst of climbing it.”

It’s the first new medical school in New Jersey in more than 35 years. Nearly 3,000 students applied to Cooper Medical. The charter class consists of 50 students. Seventy-four percent are from New Jersey. The class size will eventually grow to 100, with 400 students in total.

Senate President Steve Sweeney called the event the beginning of changing education in the state. “More importantly, it’s an investment and a commitment that we create three centers of excellence in the northern, central and southern parts of the state,” said Sweeney.

The six-story, 200,000 square-foot building cost $139 million and was managed by the Camden County Improvement Authority. The new facility towers overs blocks of abandoned row houses. The school’s dean, Dr. Paul Katz, along with the other political leaders at today’s event, insist the new medical school will help revitalize the struggling city.

According to Katz, it’s not just about educating physicians. The new medical school wants to focus on and improve the health of residents throughout Camden where more than 40 percent of the population is obese and about half the population visits the emergency room every year.

Katz described a holistic goal of the school, saying “by instructing the kids here about food, about how to stay out of trouble, about how to avoid violence, about how to lead a healthy lifestyle. That’s really probably a lot more important in the long run than the physicians that we will graduate.”

The school will focus less on lecture and more on hands-on experience. In a clinical simulation center, for example, students will work with actors playing the role of patients along with high-tech mannequins that can breathe and even give birth. Their interactions are recorded and monitored by faculty members through a window.

Katz touted this teaching approach by drawing similarities to other industries. “No one should ever learn how to do their first cardiac resuscitation in a real cardiac resuscitation,” he said.

Students will be trained by more than 450 clinical faculty members from Cooper University Hospital and the medical school’s own faculty. The first charter class will begin Aug. 13.

Lauren Wanko reports from Camden.