BILLINGS - Rocky Vista University (RVU) announced Tuesday that it has selected Billings as the proposed site for development of a four year medical school – the first of its kind in the state of Montana.
Billings was selected after an extensive location search by RVU to continue its mission-led focus of providing quality healthcare education while inspiring students to serve with compassion, integrity and excellence. While RVU graduates pursue the full spectrum of medical specialties, the majority choose primary care, and many of them practice in underserved and rural areas. RVU said their graduates become lifelong learners prepared to meet the diverse healthcare needs of tomorrow through innovative education, relevant research and compassionate service.
RVU President and CEO, Dr. Clint Adams said, “Montana is a natural fit for RVU and our regional focus on healthcare education and we are so excited by the prospect of bringing a RVU campus to Billings. We were impressed with the quality of the healthcare system in Montana and look forward to helping meet the need for graduate medical education opportunities for students in Montana and across the region.”
The proposed Billings campus will become the third RVU campus in the Mountain West Region. RVU’s first campus was founded in 2006 in Parker, Colorado and a second campus was developed in 2017 in Ivins, Utah, graduating its first class in 2021. RVU is accredited by the American Osteopathic Association Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA), Higher Learning Commission, Accreditation Review Commission for the Physician Assistant, and the American College of Surgeons. RVU has demonstrated excellent student outcomes since inception and has a 100% residency placement rate.
Local Economic Benefit
When completed, the proposed Billings RVU campus will house a 135,000 square foot, technologically-advanced facility on a 12-acre campus on the west-end of Billings. This project is completely private-sector funded and will contribute to the tax base for the local community and state. The expected direct and indirect economic impact of the proposed campus during the two-year start-up period (2021-23) is expected to total $78.6 million, provide 350 jobs, and add more than $1.2 million in taxes to communities in the region. By July 2026, upon full operation of all four classes, the proposed medical school is expected to support directly and indirectly 304 jobs in the region, generate $67 million in annual total economic impact and add $3.3 million in state and local government revenue.
Support for Montana’s Healthcare System
Montana’s healthcare landscape was the initial driver for RVU to look at Billings as the site for the first Montana Medical School campus. There is currently no established four year undergraduate medical school in Montana, limited graduate medical education and Montana ranks 44th in the country for the number of primary-care physicians. There are fewer Montana physicians per capita than national rates, and more than a quarter of the population lives in areas where there are not enough health-care professionals. Educating students in Montana is integral to keeping physicians in the region long-term, as it is estimated that in 2021 over 200 Montana college graduates will seek to further their education in healthcare and apply to MD and/or DO medical schools.
RVU is supported by strong local community and healthcare partners. The Alliance, comprised of Billings Clinic, St. Vincent Healthcare/SCL Health and RiverStone Health, is engaged in the launch of the medical school by exploring the development of clinical rotations for the third and fourth year students beginning in 2025 and further development of Graduate Medical Education (GME) with other Montana hospitals statewide. RVU partnered with Big Sky Economic Development (BSED) to fully understand the opportunity of siting their proposed Montana campus in Billings. The proposed medical education facility will provide opportunities for current Alliance physicians to participate in teaching, research, and innovation as well as be a draw for physicians looking to continue participating in these activities upon completion of their training. Growing Montana’s healthcare workforce at the physician level, with a focus on primary care and rural medicine, is essential to meeting Montana’s healthcare delivery needs.
As part of the due diligence process the Big Sky Economic Development (BSED) team hosted a site visit to the RVU campus in Ivins, UT to meet with RVU leadership, community leaders and healthcare peers.
“The time could not be more critical. Growing Montana’s healthcare workforce at the physician level, with a focus on primary care and rural medicine, is essential to continued healthcare delivery. A medical school of the caliber of RVU helps us lean into our already robust medical sector and reinforce Billings as the regional hub for world class healthcare,” BSED Executive Director, Steve Arveschoug said.
David Park, DO, FAAFP, FACOFP, will serve as the Vice President and Founding Dean of the proposed Montana College of Osteopathic Medicine. Dr. Park has been with Rocky Vista University in key leadership positions since 2015. Dr. Park received his DO degree from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1998 and is dual-board certified by the ABFM and the AOBFP.
Upon the announcement of Dr. Park’s new appointment, two current RVU medical students, with Billings ties, reached out to congratulate Dr. Park with these statements:
“Congratulations to Dr. Park for the appointment and the challenge in a new location. His experience will be invaluable. The entire state of Montana will benefit greatly from his expertise. Being a Billings native myself, it has always been a life goal of mine to help facilitate medical education within the state. Seeing this coming to fruition gives me great joy and hope,” Dillon Winkler, a fourth year student said.
Samuel Pollock, a second year student from Billings said, “You (Dr. Park) are an excellent leader, and I'm confident this new Montana campus is going to be successful in large part due to your influence. I love Montana, and I eventually plan to return to practice there, and I wanted to thank you personally for taking the difficult job of building another RVU community there.”
For more information about Rocky Vista University visit www.rvu.edu.