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What to know about Belmont’s new medical school

Updated: Sep 20, 2022

Plans for the new Thomas F. Frist Jr. College of Medicine at Belmont University are taking shape after the university announced a name, location, and founding dean for the school.

Pending approval from the Metro Planning Department, construction on the medical school building will begin in the near future, and the university is aiming to break ground on the Wedgewood Avenue site by the end of 2021.

The addition of a medical school will round out Belmont’s health care offerings, alongside the university’s nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, social work, public health and pharmacy programs.

Proposed renderings of the project plans show a 160,000 square-foot building with underground parking. The medical school will also house large lecture spaces and simulation areas that use virtual and augmented reality technology.

“As health care continuously evolves, we are committed to creating an atmosphere where our students will be trained to lead the way in health care design and delivery,” said Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher in a university press release.

“This building must follow suit, providing state-of-the-art technology and opportunities for extensive collaboration.”

The university announced May 3 that the college will be named in honor of Dr. Thomas F. Frist Jr., who co-founded HCA Healthcare in 1968 alongside longtime Belmont donor Jack Massey. In addition to starting the hospital management company, Frist is also notable for being the wealthiest person in Tennessee, according to Forbes.

The new college’s ties to HCA Healthcare don’t stop at its name; HCA Healthcare’s Nashville-based TriStar Health hospital system will provide students with clinical experience and elective rotations during their third and fourth years at the college.

Though an opening date for the medical school has not been set, Belmont plans to eventually enroll an inaugural class of 150 students with an expected capacity of 500-600 students once the program is up and running, according to the university’s Office of Communications.

In the meantime, Belmont is pursuing accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, which grants colleges the ability to offer M.D. degrees. Approval would make the Thomas F. Frist Jr. College of Medicine the fifth accredited medical college in Tennessee.

This accreditation process includes developing curricula and hiring faculty. Among those who will lead the college is Dr. Bill Bates, who was announced as founding dean in December.

Before taking on the position officially in January 2021, Dr. Bates was a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and director of reproductive endocrinology at Nashville’s Meharry Medical College, where he worked since 2012.

Dr. Bates is also founder, former president and former CEO of digiChart, an electronic medical records company. He also previously served as dean of the College of Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina.

“Even as a new medical college, it will quickly take its place among other outstanding medical schools and colleges in the United States. I am humbled and excited to be selected as founding dean. Dr. Fisher and I share a vision for this College of Medicine,” said Dr. Bates when he was selected for the position.

This article was written by Sarah Maninger and Anna Jackson. Photo courtesy of the Belmont University Office of Communications.

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