Medical school reaches major milestone, now operates independently

NUTLEY, NJ — Hackensack Meridian Health and Seton Hall University have announced that the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine has been established as an independent medical school. This is a major milestone for the three-year-old school that offers a three-year path to residency, partners students with underserved communities and strives to keep more physicians in New Jersey.

“We are extremely proud of the journey we have taken to create an independent medical school,” said Robert Garrett, CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health. “We have worked closely with our partner Seton Hall University to establish a school that will lead the nation in medical education, as well as create a physician workforce highly trained to excel in a new state of health care.”

Hackensack Meridian Health partnered with Seton Hall University and opened the school on the Nutley-Clifton campus on Route 3 three years ago. The agreement was restructured in 2018, in which Hackensack Meridian assumed complete financial responsibility for the school and both parties determined a date for the school’s independence.

“Our vision — which we believe is achievable — is that all citizens within the state of New Jersey — and eventually across the nation — deserve the same level of health outcomes regardless of race or socioeconomic status,” said Dr. Bonita Stanton, the school’s founding dean. “The entire curriculum is built around this vision.”

“I am confident our Interprofessional Health Sciences campus — and the alliance that supports it — will play a major role in creating a safer and healthier world for everyone. We remain focused on enhanced team-based approaches to medical and health education. These approaches will continue to serve our nursing and health and medical science students, as well as Seton Hall undergraduates who dream of studying at a world-class medical school,” Seton Hall University President Joseph Nyre said.

Beyond sharing facilities, the Hackensack Meridian and Seton Hall communities remain strategic academic partners and have interdisciplinary connections. Together, they train students for treating opioid addiction supported by an innovative U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services grant program, which allows students at the School of Medicine, the Seton Hall School of Health and Medical Sciences, and the Seton Hall College of Nursing to receive certifications to eventually prescribe drugs to treat opioid addiction. The three schools also collaborate on a successful Interprofessional Health Sciences Research Seminar Series at the campus, which cultivates a collaborative research environment promoting scholarly discourse, skill-building and mentoring for faculty, staff and students.

The School of Medicine’s inaugural class in 2018 included 60 students, and the 2019 class admitted 90 students. Another 123 students are beginning their medical education this July. In each of the last two classes, the medical students were picked from a pool of more than 5,000 applicants.

The school’s innovative approach includes interdisciplinary learning, the opportunity for a three-year path to residency, an optional fourth year which offers combined master’s degree or graduate certificate programs, and the human dimension course. This immersive community-based experience links pairs of students to families in the community, with a focus on four domains of health: social, environmental, psychological and medical. Throughout their stay at the School of Medicine, students in the human dimension course follow the health trajectories of individuals and families, in locations including Hackensack, Garfield, Paterson, Passaic, Bloomfield, Clifton, Nutley, Union City and West New York. Through experiences in the family’s home, community and health care settings, students come to understand the role of community and context in health and well-being, as well as the role of the physician in maintaining health.

The school also aims to diversify New Jersey’s next generation of physicians. Nearly half of the class is female, and students speak 33 different languages. Half of the class identifies as persons of color, and more than a quarter are from groups categorized as under-represented in medicine.

“We value the cooperation and collaboration on this campus, and we look forward to continuing it into the future,” Stanton said. “We thank Seton Hall for their assistance in getting our start, and we will find ways to work together heading forward.”

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