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$5 million gift allows for expansion of St. Mary's University in Rochester

$5 million gift allows for expansion of St. Mary's University in Rochester

Thanks to a donation from two local philanthropists, St. Mary's University of Minnesota will break ground this spring on a $4.4 million addition to its Cascade Meadow facility in Rochester.

The two-story addition will provide space for a new collaborative effort — also announced this week — between St. Mary's University, Mayo Clinic's School of Health Sciences and the University of Minnesota Rochester. The schools are developing a physician assistant master’s degree program to help address a growing demand for primary care in rural areas.

The 3+2 Physician Assistant program will launch in fall 2019, providing students the opportunity to obtain a master's degree in as little as five years. Students will take their undergraduate courses at UMR or St. Mary's in Winona, then complete their graduate portion of the program at the expanded Cascade Meadow facility.

While in Rochester, they will also participate in hands-on clinical experiences at Mayo Clinic. Students who successfully complete the program will earn a bachelor's degree from their respective university, and a master's of health sciences in physician assistant studies from Mayo's School of Health Sciences.

“Innovative educational collaborations will play an essential role in creating the highest quality, patient-centered care,” said Dr. Fredric Meyer, Juanita Kious Waugh Executive Dean for Education at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science. “We are committed to developing educational pathways for students that empower them to meet the needs of area patients.”

The St. Mary's expansion at Cascade Meadow was made possible through a gift from Jack and Mary Ann Remick. The Rochester couple recently donated $5 million to the university so it could help launch the physician assistance program. The additional $600,000 will be used for program development, according to St. Mary's.

“This building addition and collaboration with Mayo Clinic should put Cascade Meadow and Saint Mary’s on the map in Rochester,” said Jack Remick, a former IBM employee who co-founded Fastenal, a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Winona.

He added, “I’m pleased to see how Saint Mary’s is developing programming at Cascade Meadow to fully utilize the facility and build this valuable collaboration.”

The Remicks established Cascade Meadow in 2011 as a wetlands preservation area and environmental learning center. It transferred ownership of the $3 million property to St. Mary's in 2015. The couple is among the most generous supporters of Catholic education in the country, according to a 2015 Post-Bulletin report.

Related: Couple makes $9 million gift to Rochester Catholic Schools

According to Mayo, the role of physician assistants will likely continue to grow as the country copes with a shortage of primary care physicians, particularly in rural areas. While 20 percent of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, just 10 percent of doctors practice in those areas.

"Physician assistants can help alleviate this issue by performing examinations, and diagnosing and treating patients as part of a closely coordinated care team with physicians," the schools said in a joint news release.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 30 percent job growth for physician assistants by 2024, the second-fastest-growing health care profession in the next decade.

Cover graphic: Early architectural design concept of an expanded Cascade Meadows facility / Courtesy St. Mary's University

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