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New schools won’t take over

If the number of physicians in Florida is declining, the only solution is to educate more doctors – at least according to representatives from the University of Central Florida and Florida International University. The two institutions are presenting proposals to the Florida Board of Governors, hoping the board will approve and help fund the construction of medical schools on their campuses.

The land and money needed to build and operate the schools would come from generous private donations as well as state taxes, according to BOG Communications Director Bill Edmonds.

According to the BOG Web site, the proposals for both schools have estimated costs in the hundreds of millions.

The BOG was scheduled to vote on the matter at its Nov. 17 meeting, but opted to table the issue until March so it could better research the full impact the new schools would have on the state. FSU student body President Chris Schoonover, who is also the student representative for the BOG, agrees with Edmonds that the board should have sufficient information by then and will be better prepared to make a decision at that time.

With new medical schools going up across the state, USF would face some competition. And while there are some for whom this is a concern, many students and directors feel this advancement would be beneficial for the state and will have minimal effect on USF.

“Location isn’t the only factor when it comes to choosing a med school,” said Jesal Popat, a USF alumnus applying to the USF Medical School. “I chose USF because of its first-rate reputation, research developments and hospital affiliations.”

The medical department at USF works in conjunction with H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, Shriners Hospital, Tampa General Hospital, All Children’s Hospital, Bayfront Hospital and two veteran’s hospitals, according to the USF College of Medicine Web site.

“I didn’t choose USF based solely on its medical department,” sophomore Nick Medley said. “(Seeing the med school program) helped me make the decision to go into medicine. I doubt it would’ve even mattered to me if the other (medical) schools were open when I chose to apply.”Edmonds said if the two new med school proposals are accepted by the committee, USF and other Florida med schools will most likely not lose funding. Funding is one of the major concerns for the board, and it is being kept in the forefront of decision.

The University of Florida, University of Miami, USF and most recently Florida State University house the largest medical colleges in the state.

“FSU (med school) had its first graduating class just last year,” Schoonover said. “We’re not concerned with the impact the new medical schools may have (on our number of applicants). We’re still pretty new, and already we have to turn away applicants because so many students want to go (to med school).”

Edmonds said one point of opposition in reference to the new colleges considers the availability of in-state residencies. With a shortage of doctors in the state on the rise, many are saying that opening new residencies at already established medical schools might solve more problems than just opening more schools in general.

“The board is not only considering the short-term benefits of opening two new schools in the state, but also the long-term,” Edmonds said. “We are looking at the issues raised within the state as well as nationally. If we implement these new programs, we would surely have a rise in the number of doctors choosing to open practices in Florida regardless of the number of residencies.”

Paul Wallach, vice dean of Educational Affairs for the USF Medical School, said that while he cannot give a specific number, a vast majority of students receiving their undergraduate degree from USF apply for residencies either at USF or UF, and therefore stay within the state.

“We have some very exciting developments in the works,” Wallach said. “We are designing and building the Center for Advanced Healthcare as well as the Center for Clinical Learning. I don’t feel as though these new med schools will have any impact on the number of candidates that apply. We have some superb people that chose USF based on our reputation, and I believe that will always continue.”