Medical College Breaks Ground
RVU Launches New Medical Culture for Billings
The first medical college in Montana held a groundbreaking ceremony on Monday. Rocky Vista University (RVU) officials were joined by dozens of Billings’ civic leaders to celebrate the construction of the medical school’s third location and the first such education center in Montana.
RVU, a private education enterprise, will build an almost $80 million four- year medical school in Billings at the corner of Monad and Shiloh. Langlas Construction has already begun construction of the 135,000 square foot school. Steel girders already tower over the 12-acre campus of RVU’s Montana College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Speakers at the groundbreaking, including Gov. Greg Gianforte and several RVU leaders, lauded the Big Sky Economic Development team led by Director Steve Arveschoug for recruiting and assisting RVU’s efforts to locate in Billings.
“You worked tirelessly to get here,” said Gov. Gianforte in congratulating everyone involved. “Thank you,” he said, adding that the project is the kind of private investment Montana needs and he hopes that this project will encourage more such investment.
Also, “It will save lives,” he asserted.
“We need to raise up a new generation of doctors,” said the Governor, noting that the benefit to Montana is in being able to improve medical care in the rural areas of a state that has an aging population which will need more access to medical care, in the future. Having a medical school in Montana means more doctors for the state, he said, explaining that studies have shown that doctors tend to stay in the states where they go to school and train.
While RVU graduates pursue the full spectrum of medical specialties, the majority choose primary care, and many of them practice in underserved and rural areas. RVU graduates become lifelong learners prepared to meet the diverse healthcare needs of tomorrow through innovative education, relevant research, and compassionate service, according to RVU leaders which included speakers, Dr. David Forstein, RVU’s president and provost; and Dr. David Park, RVU vice president and founding dean of the Billings campus.
RVU will also be a benefit to Montana students who will be able to stay closer to home while going to school. And, of course, RVU will attract other students from out-of-state to the Billings community.
RVU expects to graduate its first class in 2027.
Gov. Gianforte pointed out that Montana ranks 30th in terms of physicians per capita – and “COVID has exacerbated this problem.” Also underscoring the state’s critical need for more doctors is that only 13 percent of Montana doctors are under the age of 40, and more than a third are over 60, according to Gov. Gianforte.
The Governor extended his support to RVU as they move forward. He later said that he wanted to “roll out the red carpet” to them and to let them know that “Montana is open for business.”
Elsie Arntzen, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, said that RVU presence in Billings will not only add to the culture of the community but will help develop a health culture – and it will add more to K-12 education “than ever thought before.”
Underscoring that RVU is privately- funded, Dr. Park said that they will not be asking the community for money. In fact, it is estimated that the college will pay over 3 million dollars in taxes every year. “What we will ask the community to donate,” said Dr. Park, “is time – time in supporting us and learning about us and in talking about us. Time in developing a culture of medical education.”
Besides being a game changer in the realm of medical care and health care access, in Montana, RVU will also have a significant economic impact. The college will provide 350 new jobs and will generate $67 million annually in economic activity. It may also be a stimulus for other similar kinds of ventures.
RVU’s first campus was founded in 2006 in Parker, Colorado and a second campus was developed in 2017 in Ivins, Utah, graduating its first class in 2021. RVU is accredited by the American Osteopathic Association Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA), Higher Learning Commission, Accreditation Review Commission for the Physician Assistant, and the American College of Surgeons.
RVU is supported by healthcare partners, including St. Vincent Healthcare/SCL Health, and RiverStone Health. They and other Montana hospitals statewide will be engaged by exploring the development of clinical rotations for the 3rd and 4th year students beginning in 2025 and further development of Graduate Medical Education (GME).
Dr. Park has been with Rocky Vista University in key leadership positions since 2015. Dr. Park received his DO degree from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1998 and is dual-board certified by the ABFM and the AOBFP.