Fayetteville may be home in 2026 for a new medical school planned by Methodist University and Cape Fear Valley Health, two of the city’s most important nonprofit entities. Once it’s operating, having secured approval from accreditation groups, about 837 permanent jobs will be created, says Suzanne Blum Malley, the university’s provost.
The plan to train 80 physicians annually, then grow to 120 later, is needed to improve the region’s health care and because of a continued shortage of doctors, says Chaka Jordan, Cape Fear’s vice president of marketing and communications. Methodist will own the school and grant degrees, while Cape Fear will provide clinical and financial support.
“Areas with medical schools are healthier overall,” Jordan says. “We will have faculty who are continually learning and keeping up with the latest, greatest techniques to teach medical students.”
Organizers provided few financial details about the project other than citing plans for a $50 million building. Cape Fear Valley is among the state’s 10 largest hospital systems with $1.2 billion in revenue and eight facilities. Its 22-member board includes all Cumberland County commissioners, plus physicians, nurses and community members.
The university opened in 1960 with support from Methodist Church leadership in North Carolina. Among the early organizers was Fayetteville lawyer Terry Sanford, who later became a governor, U.S. senator and Duke University president.
Methodist has about 1,900 students and an endowment of about $15 million. It received a record $14 million gift in 2021, and has been ranked among the most diverse campuses in the United States. Stanley Wearden has been president since 2019.
New accredited medical schools are rarities, nationally, with 29 opening since 2002, along with 17 osteopathic schools, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. There are now about 157 medical schools in the U.S., including those at UNC Chapel Hill, Duke University, Wake Forest University and East Carolina University. Fewer than 15% of applicants are accepted by the schools. The state also has an osteopathic medicine school at Campbell University.
Wake Forest is opening Charlotte’s first four-year medical school next year near the Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center in downtown Charlotte, supplementing the university’s Winston-Salem campus. It’s part of a broad effort to add medical-affiliated companies and programs with an expected investment of $1.5 billion.
Methodist and Cape Fear have been discussing a possible partnership for about two years, Malley said. It is not seeking government assistance at this point and has no plans to partner with existing medical schools, she says.
Fayetteville officials expect the school, which will be located at Cape Fear’s flagship hospital, to add $750 million in economic activity over its first decade. It faces competition in the region from Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg and FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst.
The medical school association projects a shortage of as many as 139,000 physicians by 2033. About a quarter of practicing U.S. physicians are born in other nations, according to Forbes.