Letter to the Editor: SIUC’s shining light, stronger together

By Dale Buck Hales , Physiology Professor and Chair

Not all is woe at SIU’s Carbondale campus. 

As the spring semester reaches its climax, the sun is shining, the dogwoods are in bloom in Thompson woods and Campus Lake is glimmering. 

This truly is a beautiful campus. 


There’s been so much negative press about SIU this past year, it’s worth our while to stop and consider the good. Even in the face of declining enrollment, the College of Science has been on a steady growth trajectory. 

The pre-health professions programs are flourishing. The Physiology Department, the only undergraduate program in the SIU School of Medicine, is firmly rooted in Carbondale. 

Our undergraduates are among the best and brightest of the College of Science students. All of the pre-health professional programs rely on the courses offered by the Physiology department.

This pipeline of excellent students into Medical and Physician’s Assistance Schools, graduate research programs, and health related industry speaks to the importance of the School of Medicine to Carbondale. 

But our undergraduate program is just one aspect of the important role the School of Medicine plays in Carbondale. Over 440 people in Carbondale are employed or associated with the SIU School of Medicine. 

This includes 90 full time staff, 90 faculty, and 260 learners (1st year medical students; PA and MEDPREP students, plus residents and medical fellows in SIU affiliated programs).

The School of Medicine has a long-term reciprocal affiliation agreement with Southern Illinois Healthcare Memorial Hospital in Carbondale, who join the School of Medicine in all aspects of the mission – education, research, clinical practice, and community service. 

There are also many other community partnerships between SIH and School of Medicine in Carbondale and surrounding communities in southern Illinois. 

The School of Medicine is now widely recognized as the world leader in curriculum innovation and excellence in medical education.   Moreover, the School of Medicine contributes in a substantial way to Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s classification as a “R1: Doctoral Universities – Highest Research Activity”, with 53 active research projects with extramural funding of about 12 million dollars in active grants.  

SIUC is among only 115 institutions that are classified as “R1: Research Universities (Highest research activity).” In contrast, at SIU Edwardsville, there is no research infrastructure or biomedical research, only three PhD programs (in Education, Nursing and Engineering), and the SIU School of Medicine has essentially no presence. 

A group of metro-east legislators is now asking to sever the campuses and create two universities with their own boards. Their proposal comes after officials opted against shifting state money from the Carbondale campus to SIUE next year because of enrollment gains. 

State Reps. Jay Hoffman, Katie Stuart, LaToya Greenwood, and Monica Bristow proposed general assembly bill: HB5861.   Under the proposal, the schools of medicine, dental medicine, pharmacy, and nursing would become part of SIUE, and the school of law would remain a part of SIUC, effective July 1, 2018. 

The proposal to split the two campuses into separate universities and move the School of Medicine from SIUC to SIUE is a seriously flawed idea.  This proposed action may benefit SIUE, but the cost to SIUC, the SIU System and to the local economy of Carbondale and surrounding area would be devastating. 

Disbanding the Carbondale component of the SOM would not only cost 100s of people their jobs, it would cause SIU to lose the exalted R-1 research designation. 

The concept of concentrating all of the health professions into one campus may be the driving force behind the proposal. At best, this is short-sighted and poorly thought through proposal. 

A more cogent proposal would be to further expand the footprint of the SIU School of Nursing, and increase the pre-nursing and nursing certificate offerings on the Carbondale campus. 

With the 1st year medical students, PA program, MEDPREP and hundreds of pre-health professional students in Carbondale, an expansion of the nursing program at Carbondale would further enhance the medical educational environment at SIU’s flagship campus. 

There is a critical shortage of nurses and expanding nursing education at SIUC would not only help to address this shortage, it would help to drive enrollment up in Carbondale, and create a greater synergy in medical education between the two campuses.  

SIU Carbondale is a special place and building on our tradition of research excellence, and providing research opportunities to undergraduates as early as their freshman year, is the key to recruitment and retention. There are a lot of great things going on in Carbondale, and SIU is at its very heart. 

Dale Buck Hales

Professor and Chair


Dale Buck Hales can be reached at (618)-453-1544 or through email at [email protected] 

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