Touro University’s plans to open New Jersey’s first new medical school in many years hit a snag last month when the school failed to win necessary accreditation.
The Liaison Committee on Medical Education met in June to discuss preliminary accreditation for Touro University College of Medicine in the former Pascack Valley Medical Center in Westwood. In a move that will delay the school by at least a year, LCME announced this week that it would not grant accreditation to Touro, which partnered with Hackensack University Medical Center last year in order to create the state’s first private medical school.
LCME had scheduled a site visit to the former Pascack Valley Hospital March ‘ to 4, shortly after Touro and Hackensack announced they had won the bidding for the shuttered hospital. However, the medical school did not close on the property until April 30. Under LCME regulations, accreditation applicants must own the proposed property before accreditation can be granted.
The accreditation process is a form of quality control that assures that a program meets certain requirements in structure and performance. Accreditation by the LCME is required for schools to receive federal grants and participate in federal loan programs. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the LCME is charged with the accreditation of medical education programs in the United States.
In addition to turning Pascack Valley into a medical school, Touro and HUMC officials previously told The Jewish Standard they would restore the hospital’s emergency services for the area’s residents. The Pascack Valley region has been without such facilities since the hospital closed last year. "It is a problem to the extent that there is no emergency room in the immediate area," said Rabbi Benjamin Shull of Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley in Woodcliff Lake. "The sooner we can get some kind of emergency room here the better."
Temple Emanuel hosted an interfaith community forum in March addressing concerns about the hospital’s closing and what keeps hospitals running smoothly.
"Certainly people are concerned about the closing of the hospital and hoping we can get emergency services as soon as possible," he said. "That’s a concern that crosses all faiths."
Touro officials said they did not know how the stalled accreditation would affect clinical services, inasmuch as they are being coordinated by HUMC.
Calls for comment to HUMC were not returned by Wednesday afternoon.
Touro administrators had originally hoped to open the school sometime in ‘009. The school is now focused on opening in ‘010, said Paul Wallach, vice president and founding dean of Touro University College of Medicine, in a statement on Tuesday.
"The fact that we did not definitively own the property of the former Pascack Valley Hospital at the time of our site visit in March was a significant contributor," Wallach said in his statement. "Even though the closing and zoning had gone through before the LCME meeting, it occurred after the site visit."
LCME rules prohibit the consideration of additional information after the site visit, according to Touro officials.
"We were disappointed in the LCME decision," Wallach said. "Our faculty is eager to begin the education of students within the innovative curriculum that was recognized as a strength by the LCME. However, we will reapply next year and we will use this time to make our school stronger in every way possible."
Touro officials declined comment when asked to expand on this. If approved next year, Touro will be able to begin recruiting students so it can start operations in ‘010. The school plans to begin with a class of 40 students and eventually grow to 100 students in a class.
The New Jersey state board of medical examiners approved Touro’s application in ‘006 to open in Florham Park in a building donated by real estate developer and philanthropist Charles Kushner, a member of Touro’s board of directors.
When Touro affiliated with Hackensack last year, its leaders decided to build the medical school closer to its new partner. A site had been selected in Hasbrouck Heights but officials changed their plans again when Pascack Valley Hospital closed its doors and its campus went up for sale.
Touro has ‘3 campuses across the United States and eight other countries. It is named for Judah Touro, a 19th-century entrepreneur and philanthropist who was a major benefactor of Touro Synagogue in Rhode Island. Touro University’s president, Dr. Bernard Lander, founded the medical school in 1970 in New York.