Inova partnership to boost SU’s Leesburg campus
Posted: February 14, 2013
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — Shenandoah University is partnering with one of the largest health care systems in the state to expand three of its medical education programs into Northern Virginia.
Inova, a nonprofit health care system in the Washington, D.C., area, will provide more than $3 million in startup money so that SU can offer graduate programs in occupational therapy (OT), physical therapy (PT) and physician assistant (PA) studies at the university’s Northern Virginia campus, which is located near Inova Loudoun Hospital in Leesburg.
Through a partnership with Valley Health, SU’s health professions programs began 50 years ago with the development of the school’s nursing program. The university currently offers PT, OT and PA programs on its Winchester campus through this partnership.
“It feels like a perfect fit,” said University President Tracy Fitzsimmons. “We’ve now got two incredible health care partners.”
Inova serves more than two million people a year and has in excess of 1,700 licensed beds based in Northern Virginia. It has five hospitals and ranks among the top five health systems in the state in both size and revenue.
Inova will provide $3.2 million in seed money to start the programs, allowing SU to avoid taking on any additional debt.
Inova will also build a six table cadaver lab, lease space for up to two years and provide clinical and rotational slots for SU students enrolled in the programs.
“This is a really big part of the collaboration,” said Karen Abraham, director of SU’s division of physical therapy. “It’s really important to have those real-world experiences.”
In return, SU students can seek employment within Inova’s hospitals and outpatient care facilities — helping to bolster the economy and address the nation’s projected increase in patient demand and shortage of health care professionals.
“The demographic wave of people needing health care is coming,” said Knox Singleton, chief executive officer of Inova. “It leads us to focus on what can we do to improve health care manpower.”
Singleton said SU’s entrepreneurial spirit and creativity were also incentives for the partnership.
“I think we’ll have a lot of people getting health care 10 years down the road that would not usually get it because of what Dr. Fitzsimmons is doing,” he said.
Offering PT, PA and OT classes in Northern Virginia will also potentially expand the type of student SU serves.
“We tend to see more diversity in urban campuses,” Abraham said. “This will enrich the experience for all students.”
The PT and PA programs at SU are two of the most competitive ones, according to Fitzsimmons. About 700 applicants applied this year for the 40 available slots in the PT program, and about 900 applicants applied for the PA program’s 42 slots.
Currently, there are 120 PT students, between 80 and 120 students in PA studies, and between 60 and 90 students in OT.
SU is not transferring anything from its Winchester campus to its Northern Virginia campus. Everything in the program will be new — faculty, students and resources. Communication between the two programs will be enhanced through video teleconferencing.
It is unknown how many faculty will be hired. The three programs at the Northern Virginia campus will be about half the size of those in Winchester.
Students will enroll in the new programs beginning in August 2014. It is anticipated that by August 2015, SU will absorb the full cost of the programs.
Fitzsimmons said expanding the studies not only puts highly educated health care professionals into the workforce, but also reinforces SU’s mission to provide public service and be good citizens.
Andy Ferrari, chairman of SU’s Board of Trustees, said the group is very supportive of the initiative.
“This couldn’t fit our mission any better,” he said. “We couldn’t be more pleased. It’s a great day for Shenandoah.”
SU has approximately 4,000 students, including 283 students taking classes at its Northern Virginia campus.
— Contact Rebecca Layne at email@example.com