Earlier this year, Methodist University and Cape Fear Valley Health announced they are partnering to establish a medical school to train the next generation of healthcare professionals. The new medical school, to be located on the campus of Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, will combine the expertise and resources of both institutions to provide students with both education and clinical and hands-on experiences. Dr.

Hershey Bell has been named as the founding Dean of the College of Medicine.

Bell recently served as vice president for Medical Education Program Development at Cape Fear Valley Health. Before then, Bell was a professor and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean for Developing Initiatives at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Bell is not new to the area. He is a graduate of Duke’s National Family Medicine Faculty Development Fellowship program.
Although he has decades of experience in the health and education fields, this new prospect of becoming dean of a brand new college of medicine is very exciting for Bell.

“I consider this to be a capstone for my career, my ability to work with the leadership at Methodist and Cape Fear Valley and to really bring a legacy project to Fayetteville,” Bell said

“Methodist University is both pleased and proud to appoint Dr. Hershey Bell as the founding dean of the MU College of Medicine,” said Methodist University President Stanley T. Wearden in a press release.

“Dr. Bell brings to the position a wealth of knowledge, experience, energy, and passion for improving the quality of care through a more integrated approach to medical education and treatment. I am confident that Dr. Bell is absolutely the right person at the right time for the important job of founding the medical school, and I look forward to having him on our leadership team.”

Bell tells Up & Coming Weekly that medical schools are economic engines for the community as they drive not just the quality of health care but also industry development and real estate service.

According to a July 2021 report from Walden Economic Consulting, at the peak of the medical school’s operational capacity, there will be 837 permanent jobs, $72 million in annual spending and $9.6 million in tax revenues.

There are two goals for the school. The first goal is to improve high-quality medical care and increase health equity in the region by educating and retaining a diverse population of expertly trained medical doctors attentive to the needs of rural and under served populations.

The second goal is for Methodist University to become a national leader in inter-professional, team-based medical education.

There is currently a shortage of medical professionals in America. According to workforce projections from the Association of American Medical Colleges, by 2034, there will be a shortage of 17,800 to 48,000 primary care physicians. That number increases for non-primary care and specialty physicians.

“North Carolina is a very interesting state. We have about the right number of physicians per 100,000 population overall,” Bell said. “The trouble is they’re concentrated primarily in urban areas and surrounding medical schools. If you look at southeastern North Carolina, we are in a doctor desert. We have a lower number of physicians per capita than you would expect in the state. And as a result, our health outcomes suffer because the number one determinant of health outcomes is access to health care.”

“A great example to look at, by the way, is Greenville, North Carolina. When ECU opened, that region of the state had the same problems we have in southeastern North Carolina. But as a result of ECU and their medical school, they now are at average or above in terms of supply of physicians, and their health outcomes have improved. So we’re going to see the same thing happen in our region.”

Methodist University plans to begin classes in July 2026, pending approval by the Liaison Commission on Medical Education and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. If everything goes to plan, that beginning class will graduate in the spring of 2030.

“We will be accepting 80 students in our first class, and we’ll be ramping up towards a maximum enrollment of 120,” Bell said. “By the year 2032, we will have full classes of 120 students per year.”

Overall, Bell hopes everyone in Fayetteville and Cumberland County can see this new medical school as the community’s medical school.

“I expect to reach out to business leaders, educational leaders, faith leaders, and start to talk about how the community can become a part of what we’re creating,” he said. “This is their school. And on top of that, our curriculum is called the Caring for Everyone Everywhere Curriculum. It’s our idea that the medical school has an obligation to its community to ensure that everyone receives the best care. We’re going to be developing programs within the community for pipeline programs for middle and high school students, for those in this community seeking health care advice and for the leadership in the community. We’ll be developing programs around this theme of caring for everyone everywhere.”

To learn more about the College of Medicine, go to www.methodist.edu/academics/medicine/.

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