Activities of the Fellows and Senior Fellows of the Coastal Research Group: Doctor Charles E. Henley and the Creation of a New Medical School in Indiana

Last Updated on April 16, 2022 by Lee Burnett, DO, FAAFP

Charles E. Henley, DO; Associate Dean, Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Indianapolis

Charles E. Henley, DO, began his association with the Coastal Research Group as the Department Chair in Family Medicine at Oklahoma State University in Tulsa. After seven years he went to the crosstown University of Oklahoma (Tulsa campus) as Professor in an Endowed Chair for Research and as Vice Chair of the Department of Family Medicine. During that time he introduced his Dean, who is now President of OU-Tulsa, Gerrald Clancy, MD, to the National Conferences on Primary Health Care Access.

Since January, 2011, Henley has been the Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs at Marian University, which is starting a new Osteopathic Medical School.  Marian is a highly regarded, small private liberal arts Catholic and Franciscan university in Indianapolis.  It will be the second medical school in Indiana, where the need for primary care physicians is especially critical.

Dr Henley notes that there has been good support from local hospitals, with five million dollars donated from each of our two largest hospital affiliates. There has been a total of $160 million dollars dedicated to the opening of the new school, and the ground breaking for the new 140,000 square foot building, which will take about $50 million of the total, was held recently.

Dr Henley’s uncle had been a primary care physician. He recalls his mother, who knew what a primary care physician’s life was like, telling him once, when he was applying to medical school, to be careful what he asks for.  He finds her words prophetic now.

“Starting a new medical school is like drinking from the fire hose”, Henley stated, “and the challenges can come out of left field.  When I left OU I had a conversation with Dr. Clancy where he asked me why I was giving up a full professorship and endowed chair position, in a big 12 medical school, to go work someplace that doesn’t even exist yet. That was a good question, although now we have pre-accreditation status, so we do exist.

“But the answer is simple, and I didn’t need to think about it, or worry about the decision for very long. My entire career has been about patient care and building, or fixing programs in academic medicine. I ‘ve had about every job there is to have. Although I loved my job at OU, I had accomplished what I had come there to do – to create a primary care research infrastructure for the department and the medical school.

“But, when in my life would I ever have an opportunity to create a new medical school from a blank piece of paper? That’s what we have here, and it’s been an exciting and sometimes bewildering process so far”, Henley continued. “It has also been very time consuming, and has limited my ability to continue with the Coastal Research Group on a regular basis, something I hope to resolve soon.  I miss the intellectual give and take that the group represents, and hope to see everyone soon.”

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