Northern Arizona University to launch medical school

Northern Arizona University has announced it will launch the NAU College of Medicine. With this announcement, all three of the state’s public universities will have medical schools.

“With the creation of NAU Health, we recommit ourselves to elevating our existing, exceptional health education programs with the goal of doubling the number of degrees awarded by NAU in the much-needed fields of nursing, health professions, and behavioral health and increasing provider availability in every nook and corner of the state,”  NAU president José Luis Cruz Rivera said.

The foundation of the new medical school is part of the Arizona Board of Regents’ AZ Healthy Tomorrow initiative, a multifaceted approach to improving state health outcomes. The initiative includes three central goals: launch ASU and NAU’s new medical schools, double the number of graduates from UArizona’s College of Medicine, and increase the number of nursing and other health care graduates.

In partnership with the Governor’s Office, the board has also allocated $56 million to launch these initiatives. The new medical school and the financial investments “will close the historical healthcare gap so many Arizonans are experiencing,” Gov. Hobbs said last month on X, formerly known as Twitter,

ABOR also recently voted to request $153 million from the Legislature in fiscal year 2025 for the initiative, as well.

“There is not a moment to waste as Arizona must train and deploy the health care professionals our fast-growing population requires,” said Fred DuVal, ABOR chairman.

Arizona struggles to compete nationally on healthcare outcomes and the state’s domestic medical workforce. According to the AZ Healthy Tomorrow initiative, Arizona by 2030 requires:

  • 14,000+ new registered nurses,
  • 3,600+ new physicians,
  • 2,400+ new behavioral health workers,
  • 1,100+ new dental hygienists,
  • 900+ new physical therapists,
  • and 800+ occupational therapists

Furthermore, “nearly 3 million Arizona residents live where there’s limited access to primary care doctors,” according to Dr. G. Richard Olds, president of St. George’s University medical school and a national expert on the physician workforce. This limited access to doctors hits rural areas particularly hard.

Danny Seiden, the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry, says a robust healthcare workforce is essential to the state’s economic growth.

“Having access to world-class health care providers helps attract job creators to Arizona,” Seiden said. “To know that each of the state’s public universities will have a medical school will not only help ensure Arizona can meet its health care needs, but it will be a major boost to our economic development prospects.”

Joe Pitts

Joe Pitts is a born and bred Arizonan who formerly served as the program director at the Arizona Chamber Foundation. He graduated Arizona State University's Barrett, the Honors College in 2023 with a B.S. in Management and concurrent B.S. in Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership.

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