Given the competition in the market, the University of South Florida has made a practical decision to refashion the use of its much-hyped medical training institute in downtown Tampa. The Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation, heralded at its opening four years ago as a means for marrying entrepreneurship, academics and medical training, will increase its use as a learning center for USF medical students. This is the right move that furthers the medical school's ongoing efforts to boost academics, build a new downtown home nearby and raise USF's image on the national stage. Still, USF should keep CAMLS' founding ambitions in mind as medicine becomes more commercialized.
CAMLS opened in 2012 with the medical school dean at the time promising it would "reinvent the nation's health care." That never happened; its finances faltered as other centers opened elsewhere to provide professional training in lifelike settings. USF now says the entrepreneurial business model was doomed to fail because the medical market changed before CAMLS even opened its doors. Now the center, which already provided access to USF students, will expand areas for students to train in a clinical setting, even as CAMLS pursues other paying business to make fuller use of its extra capacity.
It makes sense to maximize this facility, and students will be richer for having greater access to this state-of-the-art learning environment. Aligning CAMLS more closely with the student experience will also serve USF as the university builds its new medical school downtown. By having CAMLS as a resource, the university can save precious space at its downtown medical school, and the proximity of the two facilities will help build the critical mass of professional uses that Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is looking for with his master-planned redevelopment in downtown Tampa.
The new mission for CAMLS also comes as USF is raising its status in academic medicine. The medical school is attracting a larger and higher-performing pool of applicants. Under college dean Dr. Charles Lockwood, who took over two years ago, USF has brought a sharper focus to its educational and clinical mission. The improvements will help the university continue to attract top students and faculty and rise in the national ranks. USF has also strengthened its relationships with medical providers on both sides of Tampa Bay from Tampa General Hospital to Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.
USF is developing a sharper strategic vision by bringing these developments together in a timely, unified way. The new direction for CAMLS will make a more efficient use of the university's resources while keeping the institute intact as new business opportunities may present themselves. USF will have a rich presence downtown, and together with its academic gains and stronger ties with local health providers, the university is well positioned to cast itself as a leader in academic medicine.
The university should still explore every avenue for using CAMLS as part of the regional effort to target high-wage jobs in medical manufacturing. Having students at the institute more regularly could yield a creative environment that brings more business in the door. At every level, it makes sense to bring CAMLS closer to the student experience, and to sharpen USF's identity in the field of medical education. Lockwood has made a valuable contribution in a short period of time. He should keep his focus in the coming years as the new medical school moves downtown and as USF works across a broader front to make a bigger mark on health care.