SCRANTON -- Geisinger Health System is set to soon go into education. Wednesday afternoon, the health care giant based in the Danville area announced that it will take over financial control of The Commonwealth Medical College in Scranton.
The announcement was made at a 1 p.m. news conference at TCMC campus in Scranton.
The Commonwealth Medical College, or TCMC, is unique in that it's been an independent nonprofit since it opened in 2009. Most medical schools are affiliated with a university or hospital.
The deal that brings TCMC and Geisinger together is also unique. Geisinger has promised to support the school financially forever.
TCMC will soon no longer have that acronym. Its dean says the medical school's new name will have Commonwealth in it but also Geisinger as the Geisinger Health System has stepped in with a deal to take financial control of the college.
"Geisinger has committed that the college will remain here," said TCMC dean Dr. Steven Scheinman. "They've committed to assuring that the college has a licensed, accredited institution in perpetuity."
There's no dollar number associated with Geisinger's new role with the medical college, but Geisinger has promised to support it financially no matter what.
TCMC was initially funded with about $150 million from a combination of state grants, private donations, and a hefty contribution from Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
"I think that the community should think that it's those Blue Cross premium dollars and all of our effort and energy given fuel for the future, for our kids. I think it's awesome," said TCMC founder Dr. Linda Thomas.
Officials who helped form TCMC say it lacked long-term financial stability though students we talked to say that wasn't a concern when they applied.
Geisinger's involvement could create more opportunities for them.
"It's an adventure, and everything that an adventure comes with," said medical student Laura Barna. "I think it opens a lot of doors for our students, opportunities that we didn't have before."
"There's going to be more opportunities in research, mentorship, and dual degree programs in the future, I'm just thrilled to see what's next," said medical student Mike Rothstein.
Though Geisinger and TCMC officials say there is no set purchase price for Geisinger, in order for the school to be accredited, it must have enough money in the bank to fund five years into the future. Geisinger says it has taken care of that. The acquisition is expected to take place officially in January.
We asked for input from someone who was instrumental in bringing The Commonwealth Medical College to Scranton.
Former State Senator Bob Mellow helped secure some of the $150 million needed to open the medical college in 2009.
Mellow says he was consulted about Geisinger's involvement.
"The one thing that concerned me was being able to fund it in perpetuity. What would happen to the medical school, not this year or next year or five years down the road, but 15 years down the road. You cannot fund a medical school on tuition. It does not survive on tuition," Mellow said.
Mellow says TCMC was unique in that it's been independent up until now an affiliation with Geisinger will give it financial stability.
Mellow says a private affiliation was always in the long game for the medical school. Founders reached out to universities in our area and hospitals elsewhere in the state.
He says Geisinger is a good fit.
"If nothing else, it will give us the opportunity of guaranteeing the medical school will educate northeastern Pennsylvania residents, and there's a good chance that some of those students will stay right here."