A Focus On Primary Care: Utah's Physician Shortage And Senate Bill 42
| Jan 30, 2013 4:00 PM
With a looming physician shortage, particularly in the field of primary care, we as a community and University are committed to train the health care providers of the future and to try to address this issue as quickly as possible.
A few years back, as a result of an unfortunate loss of federal funding, the University Medical School was forced to reduce its class size from 102 to 82 students per year. As of now Utah ranks 4th from the bottom in the number of primary care physicians per capita, while simultaneously ranking among the fastest growing states in the nation. The physician shortage poses a serious threat to the viability and health of the state. The University is the only academic training ground for physicians in the state and across much of the region. So it is vital that we do what we can to support Senate Bill 42, sponsored by Senator John Valentine, which proposes a law to support the expansion of the University of Utah’s School of Medicine class size.
First Steps: Grow the student body in the School of Medicine.
To increase the student body by 50%--from 82 to 122 students per class--we calculate the cost to be about $12.5 million per year. The School of Medicine has agreed to cost-share in this expansion, so that our ask to the legislature is reduced to $10 million per year, ongoing. With 40 additional seats per class, we will have 160 more students in training on campus in any given year. It is important to note that Senate Bill 42 therefore asks for about $62,500 per student per year, while national benchmarks remain at $90,000-110,000/year to train a medical student.
With this proposed and necessary expansion, the University is poised to enhance its ability to serve the state. According to the bill, these additional 40 students are expected to have a strong Utah connection--on top of our current 82 student class, of whom 75% (61) are Utah residents. We have an admissions process and a curriculum that encourages students to go into primary care. As a result, we are in the top 25th percentile of all medical schools for graduates going into primary care and are among the top for those going into family medicine. Additionally, when Utah residents can stay in state for medical school, they pay comparatively low in-state tuition, are less burdened by debt and thus, are better positioned to choose primary care careers.
The question sometimes arises as to whether we can we fill the 40 additional seats with qualified students. And the answer is always: undoubtedly.
This year alone we have received almost 1600 applicants to our medical school, resulting in a 1:20 acceptance rate. Each year we must unfortunately turn away many well-qualified students and we share their disappointment. With the support of the Utah legislature this year, we look forward to accepting more great students to our medical school, and training them to be outstanding physicians who can keep us all healthy and happy for many years to come.
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Author: Vivian S. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A.
About the Author: Dr. Vivian S. Lee is the Senior Vice President for Health Sciences at the University of Utah, Dean of the University of Utah School of Medicine, and CEO of University of Utah Health Care. Read her full bio herecomments powered by Disqus