Saying it will create a stronger medical education program that is well-equipped to meet the challenges of the future, The Rutgers Board of Governors voted Monday to merge its two medical schools and create a single entity that will be known as Rutgers School of Medicine.
In a statement from Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences Chancellor Brian Strom, the school said the integration of New Jersey Medical School in Newark and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick will create co-equal bodies under a single accreditation.
An integrated model will position Rutgers School of Medicine as one of the largest and leading public medical schools in the country.
“Working in partnership with University Hospital Newark and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Rutgers School of Medicine will firmly remain an anchor institution, civically engaged and serving the communities of Newark and Middlesex County, as well as the State of New Jersey,” the two said in a statement. “When complete, the integration envisions a medical school that enjoys a national reputation greater than the sum of its parts, amplifying Rutgers’ role as a leader in twenty-first century medical education.”
It is unclear how long the integration will take, but Holloway and Strom promised transparency in the process.
“We want to emphasize that this new model of medical education will not happen overnight or without extensive community involvement and accountability,” they said.
They said medical school deans Robert Johnson and Amy Murtha will lead the process to achieve accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, conducted in a manner that “promotes equitable representation and allocation of resources and allows many opportunities for medical school community members to contribute to the vision.”
The decision to merge the school was not universally welcomed. In fact, it was roundly panned by Newark-area officials.
The three legislators from Newark-based District 29 – State Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz and Assemblywomen Eliana Pintor Marin and Shanique Speight – voiced strong objections to the
Rutgers Board before the vote, saying the integration will hurt health care for Black and Brown residents of the state’s biggest city.
“We believe that such a merger would undermine the historical significance of New Jersey Medical School and go against the spirit of the Newark Accords,” they wrote. “The existence of separate medical schools in Newark and New Brunswick has allowed each institution to thrive and succeed independently.”
They said merging the schools would likely result in a disproportionate allocation of resources in New Brunswick at the expense of Newark.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, in an op-ed that appeared on nj.com, called the merger dishonest and an example of systemic racism.
“It is insultingly and dishonestly being referred to as a merger by the few that support it,” he said. “I strongly and wholeheartedly oppose what is only an unregulated and premeditated takeover that will leave Newark residents without critical resources.
“In a time where data clearly points to greater health disparities of people of color and those who live in urban areas, this proposed takeover is one of the ways that systemic racism rears its ugly head.”
Rutgers officials responded to the concerns in their release.
“Working in partnership with University Hospital Newark and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Rutgers School of Medicine will firmly remain an anchor institution, civically engaged and serving the communities of Newark and Middlesex County, as well as the State of New Jersey,” Holloway and Strom said. “When complete, the integration envisions a medical school that enjoys a national reputation greater than the sum of its parts, amplifying Rutgers’ role as a leader in twenty-first century medical education.”
They said NJMS will remain in Newark and maintain its ties with the Newark community and University Hospital Newark will of course continue as the principal teaching hospital of NJMS. Similarly, they said, RWJMS will remain in Middlesex County, maintain its ties with that local community, and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital will, subject to associated contractual agreements, remain the principal teaching hospital of RWJMS.
Rutgers officials said the decision was made after a “thoughtful and collaborative evaluation process,” which started in January 2019 but was slowed by the pandemic.