Med school would boost ‘Eds and Meds’ economy


Earlier in the month, former University of Delaware president and current Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia chief executive Patrick Harker made some interesting observations about a subject we don’t hear much about – the lack of a medical school in Delaware.

Harker’s speech came at a gathering held at the University of Delaware STAR Campus, the former Chrysler assembly plant. Harker – applying mind the adage about no one making any new land – helped engineer the purchase of the Chrysler site.

While I have not heard back from UD on a job number, it is clear that the STAR site employs thousands of people, considerably above the number in the waning days of the Chrysler plant.


Harker’s speech focused on the impact of what he called “Eds and Meds,” the economic combination of higher education and healthcare.

Harker pointed out that Delaware is one of a few states without a medical school while declaring that he is officially neutral on the subject. In addition to Delaware, Alaska, Montana, and Wyoming are the only other states without the same dubious distinction. Even lightly populated North and South Dakota have their own med schools.

The main reason for this is the short drive on I-95 to Philadelphia’s many medical schools. (One actually went out of business).

Harker pointed out the economic impact a medical school can have on a region. A case in point is the Penn State campus in Hershey, PA., which has an outsized economic impact on the Harrisburg region.

The former UD president noted that the eds and meds category is now a prime economic driver in Delaware and elsewhere. Based on the Hershey example, a medical school in Delaware would have a similar impact.

On a related note, Harker announced the Philly Fed is rolling out a dashboard website that will measure the impact of Eds and Meds.

Harker said Delaware is in good shape in the category. That is clear with the wave of construction on the STAR Campus. Much of that growth has come in UD’s Health Sciences College and the related area of pharmaceutical manufacturing research.

It has been noted that the University of Delaware and health care giant ChristianaCare have a medical school of sorts minus the sign with a combination of a teaching hospital, residency program, medical research, and a long-running affiliation with Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University.

Perhaps Harker is hinting that taking that expensive next step is a risk worth considering, especially if a medical school starts with a clean slate that focuses on healthcare costs and the worsening shortage of primary care physicians and nurse practitioners.

The former UD president is by no means a riverboat gambler. While taking a seemingly big risk with the STAR Campus during and after a scary recession Harker and company later walked away from starting a law school that could have generated a $165 million deficit. A short drive up I-95 and Concord Pike is the Delaware Law School of Widener University, which faithfully supplies a pipeline of lawyers for local firms.

Delaware has learned to live without commercial airline service, a distinction that will return in early June with the departure of Frontier Airlines and its twice-weekly flights.

Living without a medical school represents a potential missed opportunity that deserves further exploration. – Doug Rainey, chief content officer.