Rowan-Virtua: Building the health care workforce of the future

As New Jersey faces a need for more primary care physicians, nurses and other health care professionals, a public research university and a South Jersey health system have developed a new approach to building a highly trained, diverse workforce — one that is providing people with more high-quality medical services and access to research and wellness innovation close to home.

Since announcing the creation of a unique academic health partnership in January, Rowan University and Virtua Health leaders have made significant strides toward their shared goal of establishing a medical college that will recruit, train and develop future doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, allied health professionals and biomedical researchers.

Already, more than 80 registered nurses are enrolled in Virtua’s Nurturing Nurses program, which covers Virtua employees’ tuition at Rowan as they work toward their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, an early example of the possibilities posed by the partnership.

By investing in education, research and career development, the partners plan to provide South Jersey patients with more high-quality medical services close to home.

Reimagining health care

The Top 100 public research university and the largest health system in South Jersey recently began sharing those plans publicly and launched a new website designed to attract prospective students, faculty and researchers to the new Virtua Health College of Medicine & Life Sciences of Rowan University.

Employing the combined strengths of both institutions, the new college and its schools are focused on improving the delivery of health care and advancing research for the discovery of new treatments. Through diverse areas of clinical studies and distinct learning environments, the college is breaking down barriers of inequality and access to care.

“It truly is a historic moment,” said Ali A. Houshmand, Ph.D., president of Rowan University. “Our leadership team has been hard at work imagining what health care can be and should be. Make no mistake: What we are embarking on is pioneering.”

The college offers a team-based, hands-on learning experience focused on teaching and bettering all aspects of medicine, one that empowers students, faculty and researchers to think differently and broadly. With a culture driven to constantly improve and learn, the college aims to raise the bar for excellence in health care.

“This partnership will further establish South Jersey as a hub for nationally recognized education, health care and research,” said Dennis W. Pullin, FACHE, CEO and president of Virtua Health. “A bright light for people to come to learn, to practice, to discover and to care for their neighbors.”

Invested in creating opportunities for growth

To further support entrepreneurship and innovative partnerships with the University, Rowan provides funding opportunities open to the public through its Innovation Venture Fund. Recently expanded to $25 million, the fund helps support the commercial development of promising new therapies and inventions like those already underway through Rowan research. Rowan-Virtua collaborations will accelerate progress with tangible results in health care.

Endowment drives possibilities in perpetuity

Supported through Virtua’s $85 million gift, the second-largest endowment in Rowan’s history, and $125 million dedicated by Rowan, the joint endeavor will attract and expand the university’s roster of professionals and students, as well as build research facilities on Rowan’s West Campus.

The partnership is a direct result of New Jersey’s 2012 decision to reorganize its higher education institutions, naming Rowan a public research institution and integrating the state’s only osteopathic medical school with the university, noted U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross (D-1st Dist.).

“As part of the reorg, we had a vision — a vision to bring more medical education, more seats for higher education together,” said Norcross, who was a state senator at the time.

Rowan’s partnership with Virtua “is where great minds have come together to create the vision we have before us today, outside of the box,” Norcross added. “That is something incredibly special.”

Education, health care and research

Viewed by both institutions as a long-term, strategic investment, the Virtua Health College of Medicine & Life Sciences of Rowan University comprises three distinct schools, plus research centers and institutes. They include:

  • Rowan-Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine;
  • Rowan-Virtua School of Nursing & Health Professions;
  • Rowan-Virtua School of Translational Biomedical Engineering & Sciences.

For information, visit