Plans for South Jersey’s first physician assistants program, which would be based in the heart of Atlantic City’s planned “Eds and Meds” district, are beginning to take shape.
The New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority is considering a $2.2 million loan to Reliance Medical Group, a Pleasantville-based provider that offers primary care medical services at nine locations in Atlantic City. The group now has plans to host a collaboration of services - including an urgent care facility and diagnostic services - at the Sun National Bank building on Atlantic Avenue.
Those plans also call for collaboration with Philadelphia University and The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, which would offer a physicians assistant program in 8,000 square feet of space at the location. About 25 students would be selected for the program each year. They would complete their first three years at Stockton and then be eligible to transfer into Philadelphia University’s master’s program. After year four, the students would earn a bachelor’s degree in health sciences from Stockton and then earn a master of science in physician studies from Philadelphia University.
Matt Baker, dean of the school of science and health at Philadelphia University, said the opportunity is unique. The only two physicians assistant programs in the state are both in North Jersey - one at Seton Hall University in South Orange and one at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark.
“Creating something like this in Atlantic City as part of the (Eds and Meds) district makes this very interesting right now. It’s exciting to be in a place where there’s change for positive reasons,” said Baker, who is also a graduate of Stockton.
The Eds and Meds district - short for education and medical - is a concept developed in the Atlantic City Tourism District’s master plan approved by the CRDA earlier this year. The district would be bordered by Michigan, Tennessee, Pacific and Arctic avenues and would cluster educational and medical facilities.
Harvey Kesselman, Stockton’s provost and executive vice president, said programs of this nature are typically found in larger cities where there are more medical practices. Studies have shown that there is a growing need for physicians assistants and advanced practice nurses.
“We’re really excited about this. We’ll be able to help meet demand and provide an excellent opportunity for New Jersey residents to expedite the time it takes to acquire a bachelor’s and a master’s degree,” Kesselman said. “That meets both the national and state agenda for higher education.”
Philadelphia University has applied to the New Jersey Officer of Higher Education for program approval. That office must sign off on out-of-state institutions offering programs in New Jersey.
The Reliance Group, headed by Jon Regis, is hoping to rent 24,000 square feet at 1801 Atlantic Avenue for corporate offices and other medical facilities. Students would have an opportunity to do clinical work at the location by collaborating with physicians on-site. CRDA hasn’t yet committed funding to the project, but earlier this week the agency voted to continue researching the project. A public hearing will be scheduled on the group’s plans.
According to the group’s project budget submitted to CRDA, the $2.2 million would include $2 million in fit-out costs, a $25,000 phone system, $25,000 for executive offices with a six-seat conference room and $120,000 for 12 exam rooms. Reliance would invest $400,000 for the remaining costs including a $100,000 down payment on rent, $20,000 in moving expenses and $100,000 for marketing and public relations efforts.