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Medical school progress is outlined
First class to be held in June; building plan shown
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Mervyn King (left) and Noel Boaz show an artist’s rendering of the proposed medical school building in uptown Martinsville. (Bulletin photo)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

A new medical school being established in Martinsville will start teaching its first course later this spring, according to its founder.

The eight-week course in clinical gross anatomy will be a full medical school dissection-based course. It will be offered to a class of 24 medical students from around the country beginning the first week of June, said Dr. Noel Boaz, board president of the Integrative Centers for Science and Medicine (ICSM), which is launching the medical school.

Many people may be surprised that the nonprofit ICSM is “ready to start programs for medical students in less than two months,” Boaz told about 60 people who attended a fundraising banquet Friday night at 66 Fayette St., where the College of Henricopolis School of Medicine will be based.

The building, donated by Dr. Mervyn and Virginia King, is in the uptown central business district. It once housed George’s Supermarket.

A grant from The Harvest Foundation helped buy lab tables, surgical lights, computers and software for the new course, Boaz said. It will be taught at the West Piedmont Business Development Center.

“Our application for certification by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia will be acted upon at their board meeting on May 21, opening the way for offering the course in June,” Boaz said.

“I will be making a poster presentation on Tuesday in Boston at the meeting of the American Association of Anatomists to spread the word. Before our building renovation is done, we are offering this course in lecture and lab space being generously made available to us at the West Piedmont Business Development Center (thanks to Executive Director Robbin Hall) and with the help on its re-fitting by the city of Martinsville,” he added.

During the dinner, speakers used terms such as “Martinsville’s renaissance,” a “phoenix” that will rise from the ashes of despair and “a phenomenal project” to describe the emerging medical school.

An exterior drawing of the future “Shackelford building” was shown, and architectural, fundraising and programming plans were discussed.

The time frame for the future of the medical school depends a lot on supporters, Boaz said.

“We estimate that it will cost approximately $750,000 to make over this building to a modern state-of-the-art medical education, research and clinical facility,” he said. “We are poised to start our eight-month-long Premedical Institute program in the fall of this year. If we can start that program on schedule in the fall of 2013, it will be an important feeder program into our full M.D. program that can start as early as the fall of 2014. And yes, that will happen here in Martinsville. Imagine that.”

Boaz said that the main reason that he has heard that a medical school cannot be in Martinsville is, “‘I just can’t imagine a medical school there.’”

“I hope that what you have seen and heard here this evening convinces you that it is indeed possible, and even probable,” he added.

Boaz said that the area has a century-old tradition of excellence in medicine “as testified by the revered homegrown but Baltimore-trained physicians, Dr. Jesse Shackelford and Dr. John Shackelford.” He added that the school is just across the street from the location of St. Mary’s Hospital founded by Dr. Dana Baldwin that treated generations of African-American patients in the era of segregation and where both Drs. Shackelford were consulting physicians.

Martinsville’s Shackelford Hospital, founded in 1921, became a leading center in Virginia of the new “scientific medicine,” and from it sprang the statewide Virginia Hospital Association, according to an ICSM document.

“It is largely through the philanthropy of the four Shackelford daughters, Margaret, Frances, Harrison and Mary Williamson, and their families that we are here tonight,” Boaz said. He added he was pleased that Margie Shackelford Toms and Frances Shackelford Leavitt, the honorary “co-chairladies of our campaign,” were present at the banquet.

He also praised the Kings for their generosity and vision.

“There was some question as to whether we should hold our banquet in our diamond-in-the-rough building, but it is exhilarating to be here in the physical manifestation of the new medical school that we and many others have been thinking about, planning for and working on for over a decade,” Boaz said. “It is a well-built structure and excellent for our purposes, with a new roof and refurbished and cleaned brick exterior undertaken by the Kings, the latter with the help of a city of Martinsville facade improvement grant, completed before they handed the building over to ICSM.”

A big part of imagining a medical school in Martinsville is changing the mental image of the building from a retail establishment to an academic medical building, Boaz said. He added he thinks Conrad Knight’s architectural plans and Gregory Hickman’s new rendering of the building accomplish that effectively.

“With your help, we would like to be able to start the first phase of the renovation. That will involve ‘gutting the building,’ removing all the interior walls and ceilings down to the masonry so that our design team can complete the detailed plans for our renovation,” Boaz said.

He told those attending that will cost $11,500, “and I am confident that we can raise that amount tonight with your help.”

He praised Lizz Stanley, director of Gateway Streetscape Foundation, for her vision of the “Physick Garden out front that will facilitate our pharmacology courses.” He also thanked professor Dr. Christopher Brooks, representing Virginia Commonwealth University and a member of the ICSM board research committee, for “telling us about research labs destined for the lower level of the building that will tie in importantly to our faculty, graduate student and medical student research and inquiry-based learning.”

Boaz knows a thing or two about vision. He founded the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville in 1984 in the former Joseph Martin Elementary School. It became a state agency in 1988 and moved into its current Starling Avenue building in 2007.

Among other things, banquet emcee Naomi Hodge-Muse of the ICSM board executive committee, said, “We will rise like a phoenix from ashes of despair.”

Mayor Kim Adkins added, “Martinsville’s renaissance is starting right here, right now.”

“I’m absolutely thrilled to death,” said city Councilman Mark Stroud. “I think this is one of the most important and key cogs to push Martinsville forward.”

“This is a phenomenal project” and a great opportunity for the area and its citizens, said Dr. King, chairman of the Shackelford Campaign for the medical school.

He said that thousands of primary care physicians are needed now and that number will multiply in coming years.


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