South Jersey positioned as a meds and eds powerhouse after decade of growth

South Jersey positioned as a meds and eds powerhouse after decade of growth

2022-07-13T05:14:13-04:00June 16th, 2022|Economy, Education, Healthcare & Life Sciences, South Jersey|

Writer: Sara Suárez

3 min read June 2022— A decade ago, Governor Chris Christie signed the New Jersey Medical and Health Science Education Restructuring Act into law. Since then the industry has grown exponentially, but there are key challenges to address.

“Over the past few years, the eds and meds corridor in the Camden area has grown substantially. Many new additions have livened the place, making it a vibrant and growing environment for medical care and education,” said President and CEO of the Coriell Institute for Medical Research Jean-Pierre Issa with Invest:. The institute researches biobanking, personalized medicine and stem cell biology in South Jersey.

Issa pointed at the recent multi-million dollar projects that have placed South Jersey at the top of the list when it comes to eds and meds developments. The industry is growing exponentially, and with the new projects it will remain a leading employer and source of economic activity. In fact, according to the New Jersey State Data Center, eds and meds account for almost 20% of the state’s total workforce. The numbers correlate with the national trends. Data from the latest census opens IMAGE file shows eds and meds to be the leading employer nationwide with more than 24 million employees; retail follows closely with 15 million. 

While the region’s eds and meds industries are strong, there are certainly challenges to be addressed. “New Jersey continues to fall behind when it comes to research, even though it’s a leader when it comes to pharmaceuticals. That is a challenge a group of people, including myself, are looking to overcome as it is a great opportunity for growth within the state,” Issa explained. Fortunately, some right steps are being taken in this direction.

Earlier this year, Rowan University announced an agreement with Virtua Health to create what will be the Virtua Health College of Medicine & Health Sciences of Rowan University.  “This expansion is expected to generate more than $225 million in new research grants by 2032,” said Tony Lowman, provost, Rowan University. “This research will focus on the translation of technologies to practice and have an important impact on patient care as well as put Rowan among the leading R1 research institutions in the country, representing the highest level of research activity at academic institutions.” 

Another key challenge, particularly for the healthcare sector, has simply been fulfilling workforce needs. Rowan College of South Jersey (RCSJ) recently signed a partnership with Inspira Health that will revolve around education, employment and patient care. The agreement comes with a $2 million donation to provide scholarships for students pursuing healthcare degrees and occupations. The moves come in a combined effort to alleviate the labor shortage that followed the pandemic. 

For many experts, the effect of COVID-19 on healthcare and education was disruptive. “The healthcare industry is always evolving and changing, but over the last two years, it has vastly expanded with the main catalyst being the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dana Redd, CEO of the Rowan University/Rutgers-Camden Board of Governors. In fact, according to data from Morning Consult, 18% of healthcare workers quit their jobs during the pandemic. The massive resignation added to 12% of workers laid off, resulting in a third of the healthcare workforce leaving the field.

The pandemic also greatly impacted the education sector. According to a study opens PDF file by the National Education Association, 55% of teachers are “more likely to leave or retire from education sooner than planned because of the pandemic.” This percentage was just 28% in July of 2020.

Looking toward the future, the labor situation in the eds and meds sectors will only continue to worsen. “By 2060, it is estimated that one in every four Americans will be aged 65 and older. As people live longer, they inevitably require more healthcare services, particularly given the growing need for healthcare that comes with an aging population,” told Joseph Marbach, president of Georgian Court University to Invest:. Baby Boomers, the second-largest generation, are retiring each day. With their numbers increasing, the need for healthcare workers also increases. “These changes have significantly contributed to an expansion in all major aspects of the healthcare sector, and we’ve seen enhanced interest in our nursing and healthcare programs,” Marbach explained. 

For Redd and many other experts, not all lingering effects of the pandemic are adverse. “The industry nationwide needs to take a more critical look at the types of services that residents have access to, such as mental health treatments, and how those services can be improved,” said Redd. South Jersey leaders are looking at the numbers and planning and executing collaboratively. Mental and behavioral health has expanded rapidly as more people seek treatment. According to data from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected percent change in employment from 2020 to 2030 is 23% for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors, almost three times the average for all occupations, which is 8%. 

“The South Jersey region has seen a particularly large growth in the healthcare industry and education due to the large concentration and proximity of both higher education institutions and healthcare powerhouses,” Redd explained. “These institutions often collaborate with one another to share research and offer hands-on learning and employment opportunities, making South Jersey a hotbed.”