Martinsville could have to pay back $800,000 tobacco grant for proposed medical school

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MARTINSVILLE (WSLS 10) - On January 10, Dr. Noel Boaz, president of the Integrative Centers for Science and Medicine in Martinsville, will go before Tobacco Commission members in Richmond to ask for more time to open his proposed College of Henricopolois School of Medicine.

"I think it would be a catastrophe if this were thrown away with everything that we've accomplished," Boaz emphasized.

He has been working for several years to make a medical school in Martinsville a reality.

In 2015, the city received an $800,000 Tobacco Commission grant to give to Boaz to help him get his school open.

But the commission made several requirements, including that the school be open by September 2017, or the grant would have to be paid back.

"The idea is a medical school that is focused particularly on educating primary care physicians that would be appropriate for going out and treating people in small urban and rural areas," explained Boaz.

He said the lack of an investor willing to put up the money required for the school to receive the accreditation needed to open has put him behind schedule.

The $800,000 grant has already been spent on efforts to maintain the ICSM and help get the school open, so he doesn't have the money to pay back.

That means it would be up to the city to pay the money back.

"If we do have to pay it back, obviously, we'd try to stretch it over a couple of years," said Martinsville Mayor Gene Teague.

Councilwoman Sharon Brooks Hodge wants to go one step further.

"Take it to the attorney general's office and let them seek charges for fraud," she said when asked how she would like to see the city deal with trying to pay the money back.

Boaz said he now has an investor lined up and is confident that the extra time will be granted, with the school opening in late 2018 or early 2019.

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