A BOLD STEP
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Benjamin Thompson, now chairman of Campbell University’s Board of Trustees, was in his second year with the board the day when Wallace first brought up the idea of establishing a medical school.
He remembered it well.
“We quickly understood that he not only had the vision, but had also thoroughly considered the impact,” says Thompson, an attorney in Raleigh. “First and foremost, we knew he had considered the purpose of the medical school would be consistent with the longstanding principles of Campbell University.”
Second, Thompson said, the board had confidence that Wallace had thoroughly analyzed the costs and the economic impact the school would have. And third …
“Dr. Wallace likes to use the expression, ‘In order to make things happen, you have to be under conviction,’” Thompson adds. “He was clearly under conviction that we could raise the funds to make the medical school a reality.”
The Board of Trustees unanimously approved conducting a feasibility study to consider establishing the state’s first medical school in 35 years on Aug. 4, 2010. Five months later, they picked Kauffman to lead as the school’s founding dean, and in October of 2011, just 14 months after that first vote, Campbell’s medical school was awarded pre-accreditation status by the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation.
Around the same time Kauffman came on board, Britt Davis joined the team as the University’s Vice President for Institutional Advancement, moving over from his position as director of development at Campbell’s law school. On Day 1 in early January 2011, Davis was tasked with creating a fundraising plan for the med school.
Davis calls the first six months of 2011 “quiet fundraising,” as he, Wallace and their team reached out to Campbell friends and involved alumni.
“We spent a lot of time explaining our vision of medical education and trying to generate support,” Davis says. “We weren’t going public with our fundraising yet, because we were still trying to determine how much we needed to raise and trying to understand the full financing model of the school.”
They spent months learning how much to invest in lab equipment and faculty [their initial guess on faculty salaries was far less than what reality demanded]. In August, after announcing the news of pre-accreditation, Davis kicked off an official, public financing campaign with an announced goal of $30 million to make the school a reality [three times their initial fundraising estimate].
“This is by far the most costly initiative the University has ever taken on,” Davis said. “We’ve been able to fund it through a combination of external support and Campbell resources. The fact that it’s a medical school [and something much-needed in North Carolina] has opened the doors to support from individuals and organizations that otherwise may have never become involved with Campbell.”
An example — the University received $4 million toward the school in 2012 in the form of two $2 million gifts from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and the Golden LEAF Foundation. The school, in turn, is naming its state-of-the-art simulation labs for the two organizations.
“It’s been tremendous to have some of the biggest names in North Carolina philanthropy and health care involved with us in such a meaningful way,” Davis adds. “They believe in what we’re doing here. It’s a tremendous validation of our pursuit of medical education.”
Davis says even in the early days of fundraising for the program, the words “medical school” raised eyebrows and caused people to sit a little straighter in their chairs. He recalled a meeting with Raleigh News & Observer Publisher Orage Quarles in 2011 when Davis went asking for media coverage of Campbell’s bold step.
“We were in his office, and Orage was relaxed, leaning back in his chair when we began talking about Campbell’s next big project — a school of medicine,” Davis says. “I remember when we said that, he immediately leaned forward in his chair, put his elbows on his desk and was instantly engaged. ‘Tell me more about this.’”
A week later, the N&O ran a front-page, above-the-fold feature on Campbell’s venture. After that, the milestones were fast and furious.
In October 2011, on the heels of pre-accreditation for the medical school and the launching of the PA program, Campbell announced it would launch a new doctor of physical therapy program in 2013.
On Dec. 8, 2011, hundreds gathered in a bare pasture on a cold, windy day under a tent to celebrate the official groundbreaking of the Leon Levine Hall of Medical Sciences, a 96,500-square-foot facility, which finished major construction in spring 2013 and will open its doors to the first class of medical students in the fall.
In April 2012, the medical school received a $1.75 million pledge from BB&T.
That same month, Campbell received provisional accreditation from COCA, allowing it to recruit students in the summer of 2012.
“I believe in this life, we are put in certain places for certain reasons,” says Jim Roberts, Campbell’s vice president for business and one of the key administrators, according to Wallace, who made the medical school a reality. “When all of this comes together, and we look at how this happened so quickly, we’ll simply have to admit there was a guiding hand that made all of these pieces of the puzzle fit. And everything has certainly fit.”
‘BIG IDEAS & BIG DREAMS’
“The question I’m always asked is, ‘How can North Carolina compete?’” former North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue asked the crowd of a few hundred huddled under a large tent on a particularly cold and blustery early December morning in 2011.
The tent stood in the vacant field of grass roughly a quarter of a mile west of main campus — the site where a 96,500-square-foot medical school now stands.
“The answer is simple,” Perdue continued at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Levine Hall of Medical Sciences. “We compete by having big ideas and big dreams. Campbell’s big dream will transform the town of Buies Creek, Harnett County and the state.”
Sixty days before the first medical school classes — still leaning back in the couch in the building on campus named for University founder J.A. Campbell — Jerry Wallace said his dream has come true.
“Campbell will make a huge difference,” Wallace says. “Come August, we will be the second-largest medical school in North Carolina, and soon we’ll have graduates in the communities where they’re needed most. This will open many doors for Campbell. And I pray Campbell will be just as bold for the next challenge as it has been for the PA program and this medical school.”
Days after saying these words, Wallace was on hand to welcome the class of 40-plus PA students as the first students to study under the roof of the Levine Hall of Medical Sciences. PA students man a few of the classrooms in the building and will share all labs, lab equipment, libraries and other amenities with medical school students, physical therapists and, hopefully, nursing students (the University approved taking the steps to launch a nursing program last spring) in the future.
“Campbell will be a destination for health care education on several levels,” Wallace says. “It’s glorious to imagine having pharmacy, PA, physical therapy, osteopathic medicine, nursing, public health, athletic training, social work, community counseling, exercise science, chaplaincy and the other programs I’ve failed to mention … all here in a place called Buies Creek.”
That vision is exciting to students like Jeffrey Pennings, who’ll be in the first class of medical students at Campbell set to graduate in 2017. A graduate of Clemson University, Pennings says he chose Campbell because he’s convinced the school will help lead the way in changing the approach of medical education. He said he was asked by several friends where Campbell was located and whether or not he’d feel “trapped” in a small town like Buies Creek for the next few years. Pennings told them no.
“This school is right where it needs to be,” he says. “The community will benefit, and the students will be trained in an environment similar to the areas of this state that need physicians and improved health care. I’m going to be very comfortable here.”
Location doesn’t seem to be a hindrance at all in the early going. Three weeks after Campbell opened up student applications on June 1, 2012, the school already had 500 applications for its openings, more than many established schools received, according to Kauffman. That number had reached 700 by August 2012.
And aside from the influx of doctors the school will provide in the coming years, it’s also going to mean an economic shot in the arm as well. Already, about 65 full-time faculty and staff have been hired with more to come as the school grows and more classes matriculate in. In the first 10 years of operation, the school is expected to mean 1,158 new jobs created in North Carolina and a $300 million regional economic impact.
All of it the result of one man’s desire to launch a PA program and, eventually, something even bigger.
“I’m grateful to God,” Wallace says when asked to describe his emotions as his vision becomes reality. “I’m grateful for His provision and his guidance in opening doors we never could have dreamed we could open here at Campbell University.”