In late August, Noorda-COM and Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions received $42.8 million to help create infrastructure for the new Medical Education and Research Campus (MERC). The funding was the first in Utah since the Utah Legislature passed Senate Bill 228 to allow the formation of a Public Infrastructure District (PID) to finance new development and redevelopment projects across the state.
The funding will be used to start infrastructure projects on the expanded campus site such as roads, sewer, and electrical installation. “The development of the MERC will have a profound and positive impact on Utah County and the entire state and region,” said Dr. Richard Nielsen. “We are honored to be the first recipients of this funding in the State of Utah and believe it is a testament to our past success and our future promise to all Utahns.”
The bond issuance and the ability to begin infrastructure on the campus is important to recruiting students and faculty as well as in building awareness with the communities of Utah. “The medical school’s goal is to attract the highest caliber students, including those local students who want to stay in Utah for their medical education,” said Dr. John Dougherty.
This funding represents a true collaborative effort which was led by Noorda-COM board member John Nemelka and which was orchestrated by D.A. Davidson & Company’s Special District Group and supported by Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi, the city administration, and the Provo City Municipal Council.
The Noorda-COM campus continues to exercise caution and follow CDC guidelines for Healthcare Professionals as it relates to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. As of September 19th, due to the unprecedented spike in Coronavirus cases setting new records in Utah, Noorda-COM has issued a limited work from home order for all non-essential work. This should allow for an overall decrease in the number of employees on campus and will help protect our faculty and staff while mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in our community.
As Noorda-COM continues to move forward with the admissions process, interviews with prospective students will be held via video as well in keeping with national standards. The curriculum for students has also been updated to provide PPE training at the end of the first year, prior to their first shift as a medical scribe. Noorda-COM has also updated the Student Handbook and Student Health Policies with COVID-19 specific criteria and the curricular model can be modified if necessary if the pandemic continues into next year.
To date, there has been only one reported COVID-19 case on campus, and that individual, although suffering complications which required hospitalization, followed all protocols and self-quarantined until approved to return to work. We are grateful that individual is fully recovered and back at work.
Noorda-COM is pleased to announce it has affiliation agreements in place with most major healthcare systems in Utah as well as many other hospitals and major physician practice groups.
Affiliate partners include Intermountain Healthcare where students will rotate at Utah Valley Hospital, Orem Community Hospital, American Fork Hospital, the future Spanish Fork Hospital, Riverton Hospital, and the soon to be built Primary Children’s Hospital in Lehi. Other partners are Steward Health (Mountain Point Hospital and Jordan Valley Medical Center), Revere Health’s subspecialty clinics, Utah State Hospital, Provo Canyon Behavioral Hospital, Utah Valley Specialty Hospital, Premiere Family Medicine, Canyon View Medical Group, and Southwest Spine and Pain. Students interested in rural rotation opportunities can also rotate at Central Valley Medical Center in Nephi, Utah.
Noorda-COM students will be able to complete their core clinical rotations a facilities with a total of more than 1,100 – 1,200 beds all within a 30 to 40-minute drive from campus. “Not only will our students be able to stay locally for their core 3rd year rotations, they will be able to experience a variety of healthcare systems from an operational standpoint as well as outpatient and primary care facilities,” said Dr. Michael Rhodes, Associate Dean of Clinical Education. “It goes beyond them seeing different medical systems, it exposes them to diversity in patients, approaches to healthcare, and ways of thinking.”
Representatives from Noorda-COM, Brigham Young University, Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions, Utah Valley University, and Roseman University recently came together to form a new research consortium.
At a meeting held on September 25th, and hosted by Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi, the group began the work of forming the Utah Behavioral Health Research Consortium. Mayor Kaufusi set the tone for the meeting by stating that “mental illness is significant and impacts so many people. This topic is near and dear to me because I see how it affects the citizens of Provo and I will do everything I can to support the Consortium’s work.”
The Consortium goals are to substantively advance the basic and clinical science related to behavioral health in the State of Utah with particular emphasis on reducing addiction, depression, and anxiety. The institutions met to discuss and work toward formalizing research relationships. Discussions included data-sharing, reciprocal faculty appointments, space sharing, inter-institutional student training programs, undergraduate and graduate training fellowships, and resource sharing.
“We seek to formalize ties between interested regional research institutions to leverage thought, equipment, space, and resources to accomplish the Consortium’s research aims,” said Dr. Kyle Bills, Noorda-COM’s Associate Dean of Research who is spearheading the formation of the group. “Additionally, we seek to work closely with philanthropically-minded private sector partners to expand the reach and impact of scientific advances.”
For more information about the Utah Behavioral Health Research Consortium, please contact Dr. Bills at email@example.com or at 801-380-6181.
Casey Himmeslbach, MBA, MSML
Associate Dean of Student Affairs
Casey Himmelsbach joined Noorda-COM during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, coming to Utah from her hometown of Joplin, Missouri. No stranger to overcoming challenges, Casey describes herself as caring, thoughtful, and determined – three characteristics which have defined her both personally and professionally.
Casey’s passion for education started with her mother. “She had an eighth-grade education and completed her GED as a single mom with no support from my incarcerated father,” said Himmelsbach. “She taught me how to read by the time I was three and instilled in me the belief that college was not an option but a requirement.”
To help support her family, Casey attended her local university where she excelled in a rigorous honors program while also working fulltime. She graduated with a BS in Health Promotion and had already begun her full-time job as a public health educator at a rural health department before graduation.
Then an EF-5 tornado devastated her hometown, and she redirected her attention for helping to rebuild the community that built her. After holding positions in healthcare and education – all focused on connecting students to future careers in healthcare – Casey jumped at the chance to be a part of a new College of Osteopathic Medicine opening in Joplin.
Casey went on to obtain her master’s in management and leadership as well as her MBA. But this path required tenacity and determination. “Within three months of my program starting, my world turned upside down, said Himmelsbach. “My father entered hospice, my mother passed away, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, I almost lost my husband to a line-of-duty shooting, and I helped start a brand new medical school campus, all during my studies!”
After learning about Noorda-COM through the close circles within the osteopathic medical education community, Casey became interested in joining Noorda-COM because of its student-centric philosophy. “I knew that Noorda-COM was a place that I wanted to be in order to help make the changes that I knew would benefit our students, the medical education system, and our future patients, for the better. I am very excited to be here and help lead a team of compassionate, caring, and competent student affairs professionals.”
Casey is building a team in Student Affairs that will help shape and guide the inaugural class of Noorda-COM medical students and beyond. According to Himmelsbach, “our team brings a diverse background of life experiences, education, and varied perspectives on how we can best serve our students.” The student affairs team demonstrates their passion for working with and helping students achieve their goals. “I want to inspire my team to work hard, take care of themselves and others, and to model life-long learning and growth to our students,” said Himmelsbach.
This work-live balance mantra is demonstrated by Casey to her colleagues, friends, and future students. A self-defined “complete nerd”, she loves reading, her family games together (in fact, Casey and her 11-year-old daughter are currently cooperatively playing through the complete Halo franchise), and she loves attending concerts and festivals.
A caring nature, perseverance, and the promise she made to her mother got Casey through challenging times and has led her to the place she is today. Dean Dougherty often says that she wears her heart on her sleeve but for Casey it is truly a passion to help connect people with their dreams. “I like to lay out a vision for the best-case scenario and help people connect their own dots,” said Himmelsbach. “If you tell me something is not possible, I will do my best to figure out a way to make it happen. I love a challenge.”
Casey Himmelsbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Earlier this summer, Noorda-COM received approval from the American Osteopathic Association’s Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA) to begin recruiting students for its inaugural class of medical students.
This is the next major step toward pre-accreditation status for Noorda-COM and came after the Association’s June meeting and a two-year application process. To date, more than 1,300 applications have been received since Noorda-COM began the admissions process in August. The first class will be comprised of 90 students when instruction begins next fall. It is anticipated Noorda-COM could receive between 3,500 to 5,000 applications for the 90 available seats.
“We believe applicants want to come to Noorda-COM because we will be student-centered in fact, not just in words only,” said Casey Himmelsbach, Associate Dean of Student Affairs. Noorda-COM is also committed to being a school of first choice for students from Utah. “We don’t want students to choose Noorda-COM because it’s local, because it’s convenient, or because it’s in Utah County, said Noorda-COM founding President Dr. Richard Nielsen. “We anticipate they’re going to want to make us their first choice because it will be the best medical school option available.”
The next step will be reviewing these applications and inviting prospective students to complete a secondary application and then participate in virtual interviews. “We want to identify a group of students who are creative and innovative and who will help address the healthcare shortages we are experiencing in the state,” said Dr. John Dougherty, Founding Dean.