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New Bill Could Pave the Way for V.I. Medical School

Nov. 30, 2006 — Health Commissioner Darlene A. Carty had few objections Thursday to a proposal that would allow for the establishment of medical schools in the territory. The proposal is included in Government Reform and Modernization Act, one of two voluminous bills making its way through the Legislature.
This section of the bill is extensive and seeks to rectify a situation created three years ago, after Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, through an executive order, granted charters to the U.S. Virgin Islands College of Medicine and the Medical Faculty Foundation to establish medical schools in both districts.
The issue was, up to last year, mired in court cases and confusion. After Turnbull issued another executive order establishing a Medical Commission, both entities decided to abandon their efforts (See "Letter Clears Path Toward Medical School").
As currently written, the proposal, sponsored by Senate President Lorraine L. Berry, also establishes a V.I. Medical Education Commission, charged with granting charters to individuals interested in setting up a medical school in the territory. "This proposal is open to anyone who's going to fill the standards of accreditation set by the commission," Berry said during a recent interview.
The commission will consist of 14 members and will be given the authority to accredit all programs leading to a medical doctorate degree, Berry added. Ex-officio members of the commission include the local commissioner of Education, the dean of the University of the Virgin Islands, the medical directors of both of the territory's hospitals and the chair of the V.I. Board of Nurse Licensure, among others.
The commission will also have three voting members, all appointed by the governor: a representative from the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce, a retired member of AARP V.I., and a pre-med student at UVI.
Parties seeking to establish a medical school would have to have a charter granted by the commission and be accredited by a Liaison Committee of Medical Education, the "appropriate regional accrediting body" and the local commissioner of Education.
The Liaison Committee, another local entity, will deal with designing the curriculum of the medical school, which "must provide general professional education and must incorporate fundamental medical principals," Berry explained.
First priority will be given to individuals seeking to set up a medical school on St. Croix, Berry said. "However, that does not prevent someone from setting up a medical school in the St. Thomas-St. John district," she added.
During Thursday's Committee of the Whole hearing, Carty said that she "wholeheartedly" supported the proposal, but made a few recommendations to senators correcting minor discrepancies in the bill's language.
Berry said senators would be taking into consideration all recommendations made by testifiers, and will decide what sections of the bill have to be revised or removed before the bill comes up for a final vote during a legislative session scheduled for Dec. 11.
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