Historic change


Final plans made, excitement builds for July 1 SOM integration.

It’s been less than a year since Gov. Chris Christie signed historic legislation to move the School of Osteopathic Medicine (SOM) to Rowan University but as the July 1 integration approaches both institutions are abuzz with excitement and possibility.

The move, required under the New Jersey Medical and Health Sciences Education Restructuring Act, was one of several provisions of the August 22, 2012, legislation that are transforming Rowan from a well-regarded regional institution to a state-sanctioned research university with two medical schools.

“Seemingly every day brings a new milestone,” said Rowan President Ali Houshmand. “But July 1, 2013, will truly be historic.”

A huge day

The Restructuring Act calls for the state to disband the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) July 1 and move SOM from that institution to Rowan. Most of UMDNJ’s other assets will transfer to Rutgers University and the act requires Rowan and Rutgers-Camden to partner in the creation of a College of Health Sciences in Camden.

The Act also stipulates that on July 1 Rowan will become New Jersey’s second comprehensive public research university, a condition that catapults Rowan forward in its mission to better serve the needs of the region.

The integration comes as Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in Camden readies to welcome its second class of 1st year students later this summer. Once SOM is integrated, Rowan will become just the second university in the nation, after Michigan State, to offer both M.D. and D.O. granting medical programs.

Among countless actions taken to make SOM’s transition to Rowan smooth, Rowan’s Board of Trustees adopted a new name for the school, Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, or RowanSOM informally.

With SOM, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS) also moves to Rowan and the University will begin offering its first Ph. D. – a doctorate in cell and molecular biology. While Rowan's main focus, quality, affordable undergraduate education hasn't changed, the integration of SOM and GSBS will dramatically speed the University’s evolution and help fulfill its mission at the intersection of research, the health sciences, business and engineering.

Excitement on both campuses

SOM, which was founded in 1976 in Camden and later moved to Stratford, is the state's only college of osteopathic medicine and a leader in medical education.

The school, which has grown by roughly 50 percent in the past three years alone, enrolls some 600 medical students and another 200 students through the GSBS. It boasts world-renowned researchers in a wide range of fields including Alzheimer’s disease, pain management and child abuse prevention, and has a large and thriving medical practice, University Doctors.

Dr. Carl Hock, the senior associate dean for research and for the GSBS, said the wide and robust research program helps distinguish SOM.

“Many osteopathic schools focus mainly on clinical care and education but we’ve always had research as part of our mission and have been able to grow that part of the mission,” Hock said.

He noted that SOM has been among the top three federally funded colleges of osteopathic medicine in the U.S. every year for two decades and that continued research, especially in areas like cancer, Alzheimer’s and mitochondrial diseases, remain particularly strong.

Director of Admissions Paula Watkins said SOM continues to thrive for a number of reasons – the school is among the best regarded colleges of osteopathic medicine in the country, the practice is popular among physicians and patients alike, and there is a welcoming, supportive culture on campus.

“When students arrive they become enmeshed in the campus and it starts to feel like family to them,” she said.

Regarding the integration, Watkins said the energy on campus is palpable.

“Signs are being changed even as we speak,” she said. “It’s an exciting time. We’re looking forward to it!”


Come celebrate

To mark the integration, Rowan and SOM will celebrate at 10 AM July 1 on SOM’s campus: One Medical Center Drive, Stratford. Invited guests include Gov. Christie, State Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, and others.