A Publication of WTVP

UICOMP is an acronym, which stands for the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine at Peoria. When referring to UICOMP, the “at Chicago” component is generally overlooked. Most assume UICOMP has a direct relationship with the main campus, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

As background, the University of Illinois has a long and significant history of its medical school at the Chicago campus. In the early 1970s, the decision was made to expand the College of Medicine into downstate areas where physicians could be trained with the expectation that, upon graduation, these physicians would remain in the downstate areas. Campuses were established at Peoria, Rockford, and Champaign. It’s ironic that the medical school at Urbana-Champaign reports to the University of Illinois at Chicago rather than to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The impact of that decision has worked for the benefit of downstate Illinois. The UICOMP retention rate of physicians practicing in central Illinois has been outstanding. They comprise the majority of physicians serving the tri-county today.

In the three years since Dr. Don Rager became the regional dean of UICOMP, what was once Peoria’s best kept secret is now emerging as a strategic asset whose development is critical to the future of Peoria. UICOMP, through Dr. Rager’s leadership, is the link between the hospitals, Bradley University, Illinois Central College, the USDA NCAUR (National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research), and the Caterpillar Technical Center for the development of what’s now Peoria NEXT.

For Peoria NEXT to become a national player in the 21st century knowledge economy, UICOMP must extend itself into greater research activities and a greater leadership role. Its ability to extend itself to lead Peoria is a huge question mark.

As the University of Illinois at Chicago has grown over the years, the regional medical schools have gotten less attention, less financial support, and aren’t as important a part of the future plans of UI-Chicago. Thus, it appears unlikely that adequate resources for growth of UICOMP will be forthcoming from the UI-Chicago leadership. Given the State of Illinois’ budget situation now and for the foreseeable future, even maintaining current funding levels will be extremely difficult. This causes a dilemma for not only UICOMP, but also for Peoria NEXT.

Peoria NEXT and its vision of being the preferred Midwestern city in support of the culture of discovery; the creation of innovation; and the implementation of commercialization in the areas of life science, material science, and engineering science by 2015 will be hard to accomplish without the strong and increasing presence of UICOMP.

What can be done? From an ownership perspective, UICOMP has three alternatives:

If UICOMP determines alternative two or three is the direction to pursue, a united business community supporting UICOMP will be vital. We must find a way to build UICOMP. Our future depends on it. IBI