The University of Denver is looking to capture a piece of the lucrative medical school market and mainstream news outlets across the city are trumpeting the good news accordingly, which means no one is asking any hard questions about how this proposed move would impact the surrounding community.
So far, news coverage echoes DU chancellor Robert Coombe’s well-orchestrated announcement that the college is launching a feasibility study on medical school expansion. The announcement was fashioned as an email sent to DU students and faculty earlier this week, and today the happy news banners the front page of the Denver Post, which apparently was the first to officially break the story.
DU claims that its interest in medical schools is altruistically spurred by a nationwide doctor shortage, particularly a shortage of primary care providers. It is all about the “public good” says the DU brass, again quoted by obedient media outlets across town.
However, even the sketchiest research shows that plenty of med students already exist – but they eschew primary care medicine in favor of more lucrative specialties such as obstetrics, radiology, surgery and dermatology. And in a way you can’t blame them - according to the Association of American Medical Colleges in 2010 the median debt for graduating med students was $150,000 at public institutions, $180,000 at private, and $160,000 combined. That’s a challenge to payoff on a relatively modest primary care physician’s salary. But if you were a university looking at that money…well, it would appear to be a lucrative business. Follow the money kids, and that’s where DU’s real interest lies.
Coombe is quoted in the Denver Post story as saying DU’s feasibility study will be conducted by consultants. I haven’t heard anything spelling out who, exactly, these well-heeled and highly-paid consultants are, or who they will be talking to for their “study,” but it is a foregone conclusion that the study will be pleasing to DU’s Coombe & Co. I also feel confident predicting widespread city council support as well, especially here in District 7.
You’d like to think the quality of living in the neighborhood would be a consideration, but it never played a major role has in past DU expansions and I don’t see why it should now. Indeed, DU has never been required to provide levels of on-campus parking or housing to match its ambitious goals.
We’d like to see the City of Denver require a connection between enrollment increases and on-campus DU housing availability, along with mitigating traffic and parking impacts on the neighborhood. (Sorry, dismissively suggesting the city implement neighborhood street-parking passes doesn’t really mitigate a damn thing. It just heaps another layer of inconvenience on local residents.)
Those of us who live here understand and appreciate the value of having a world-class educational institution in our midst. But without a plan for responsible growth DU assumes the role of neighborhood bully, forcing the adjacent neighborhood into decline.