UA College of Medicine - Phoenix

Until the UA opened a medical school there, Phoenix was the largest city in the U.S. with no allopathic medical school.

The University of Arizona now has two fully accredited medical schools.

UA officials announced Wednesday that the UA College of Medicine — Phoenix was granted full accreditation by the Liason Committee on Medical Education (LCME). The LCME is the national accrediting authority for medical education programs leading to M.D. degrees in the United States and Canada.

The full accreditation is earlier than expected. UA officials had originally projected they'd gain full accreditation in 2018.

The UA College of Medicine — Phoenix was created 10 years ago as a branch campus of the UA College of Medicine — Tucson, which opened in 1967.

In 2012, the UA College of Medicine — Phoenix received "preliminary" accreditation with the LCME. That marked the point when students first were accepted as part of the separate accreditation. In 2015, the next step of "provisional" accreditation was granted. Full accreditation is the final step.

To date, the UA College of Medicine — Phoenix has graduated 354 physicians, with classes of about 80 students per year.

Earning full accreditation is an important milestone in the evolutionary history of the Phoenix medical school, UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins said in a prepared statement.

"Full accreditation assures students that they are getting an outstanding education and it demonstrates to Arizona residents that the University of Arizona is graduating exceptional physicians," said Robbins, who is a cardiac surgeon.

Dr. Kenneth S. Ramos, interim dean of the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix, received a call last Friday from the LCME, notifying him that the college would move from provisional accreditation status to full accreditation, UA officials said this morning.

The LCME completed its latest site visit earlier this spring.

"This significant milestone has been reached because of the collaborative spirit of our faculty and staff and the outstanding leadership of Dean Ramos," said Dr. Leigh A. Neumayer, interim senior vice president for the UA Health Sciences.

"This announcement acknowledges the strength and excellence of this college and our ability to transform today's students into tomorrow's health care leaders."

The LCME is expected to provide a comprehensive report within the next month detailing the site visit and the factors for granting full accreditation.

During the accreditation process, more than 100 performance elements are evaluated to establish whether a medical school is in good standing.

There are now five medical schools in Arizona — the two UA medical schools; the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, which is opening an Arizona campus in Scottsdale this summer; and Midwestern University and A.T. Still, which both operate osteopathic medical schools in the Phoenix area.

A sixth medical school — Nebraska-based Creighton University School of Medicine — has medical students doing third and fourth year rotations in Arizona.

Contact health reporter Stephanie Innes at sinnes@tucson.com

Twitter: @stephanieinnes