ST. CLOUD (WJON News) -- CentraCare and the University of Minnesota are working on creating a new medical school based here in central Minnesota.

CentraCare would provide the clinical rotations for the medical students while the University would provide the academic component.

The U of M already has medical school programs in the Twin Cities and Duluth and this would be an extension of that program with this being the third campus. The only other medical school program in Minnesota is at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

Dr. Ken Holmen is the President and CEO at CentraCare. He says Minnesota has had about 300 medical students year, the same number as in the 1970s.

He says this new school would be focused on rural health care.

Many physicians are retiring.  About one in three rural physicians will be retiring in the next five to 10 years, so the need to recruit physicians for rural America is really important.

There would be about 20 students per year in the program, which could start as soon as 2025.

Holmen says there would need to be a significant commitment of space and technology as well as housing for the students.

We would like to have this be remarkably affordable.  Medical school is expensive, $45,000 a year.  One key initiative to get more folks to go into healthcare is to make it so they don't have such huge debt.

Holmen says funding for the new medical school would need to come from CentraCare, the University of Minnesota, the state and federal governments, and community donations.

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The next step would be the approval of the program from the University of Minnesota Board of Regents. They meet again in February. The CentraCare Board also still needs to approve it.

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