New med schools at UCF and FIU hope to help with increasing demand

In the next 10 years, Florida may be in for a real health care crisis.

With more than two million people projected to move to Florida by 2010 and a large elderly population already living within the state, officials are looking to improve in-state medical education.

On Thursday, the Florida Board of Governors approved a resolution for two new medical colleges that should help increase the amount of working Florida doctors.

The Board, which oversees Florida’s 11 public universities, approved a medical college to be located at the University of Central Florida and another at Florida International University.

Florida State University, the University of Florida and USF are the only three public schools in the state with medical programs.

UCF has raised more than $100.3 million in the form of donations that will go toward construction and facilities, but the college will still need money from the Legislature to pay for faculty and the development of a curriculum.

Pending a review by the Legislature, UCF would accept the first class of 120 medical students as early as 2008.

USF’s medical college accepts 120 first-year medical students, but officials want to increase enrollment to 200 students.

“We think there is a pool of applicants and a need for that many medical students,” Associate Vice President of the Health Sciences Center Michael Hoad said. “But USF’s ability to move to capacity will depend upon at least some additional funding from the Legislature.”

Hoad said there would have to be some new construction as well as investment in computer technology to go with the increase in enrollment.

One of the concerns raised during a review of Florida’s medical education was whether state funding for the two new colleges would divert state money from existing colleges.

“That was a very large concern of the Board of Governors,” BOG spokesman Bill Edmonds said. “We talked about that at length, and they’ve gotten assurances from the legislative members that were (at the meeting) that they would not bill these medical schools at the cost of any funding from the State University System, that it would in fact come from new money. We don’t want any other universities to suffer or our general mission to provide education to the citizens of Florida to suffer so that we can build some medical schools.”

During the last fiscal year, the USF medical school received $35 million from the Legislature. The college also collects about $9 million in tuition, which combined with state funds comprises the annual academic budget. For this fiscal year, the college has projected $42.7 million as its total academic budget.

“I think the Board of Governors clearly understood concerns about underfunding existing, and what they’ve set up is a very orderly process for looking at it over time,” Hoad said.

In addition to approving two new medical schools and making a recommendation that the Legislature increase enrollment, the BOG proposed to create more in-state residency programs.

“They want the Legislature to create more residencies, so that when we generate more doctors here in the medical schools, they can stay in this state and get a residency here and practice in Florida once they’re done,” Edmonds said.

Residency programs are 3- to 5-year periods medical school graduates spend at a hospital or health clinic before completing their medical education.

According to Hoad, increasing the number of in-state residencies is the fastest method of increasing the pool of medical practitioners.

“Most young doctors tend to stay where they did their residency,” Hoad said. “If you graduate from USF and then do your residency in Virginia, chances are you’ll set up a practice in Virginia because you’ve already been practicing in that community.”

But Hoad said there was still a problem because fewer in-state residencies exist in Florida than in other parts of the country.

“I think it’s clear that Florida is getting most of its physician workforce from people moving to the state from other states across the country,” he said. “It may be that a lot of those people that move here are older, so Florida in the future may face a real problem as those doctors retire.”

At USF, a total of 588 students are enrolled in 67 residency programs.

According to Hoad, about half of these students are graduates of the USF medical school. Each year approximately 100 students are admitted into USF’s residency programs.

According to a UCF press release, Florida Hospital and Orlando Regional Healthcare have agreed to establish 95 new medical residencies in cooperation with the UCF medical college.

“There is a bona fide shortage of physicians in this state,” Edmonds said. “(The BOG) saw nothing in the future that was going to change that, that it was in fact going to get worse, not better. So if it’s hard to get a doctor’s appointment now, 10 years from now it may get even harder.”

New health centers to benefit USF area

The USF physicians group received a bond issuance March 16 for $47 million to fund two new outpatient centers to be part of the Center for Advanced Health Care.

The 30-year bond will help pay for one outpatient center near Tampa General Hospital and another center located at the northeast corner of west Holly Drive and Magnolia Drive on the USF campus.

According to spokeswoman for USF Health Anne DeLotto-Baier, the new centers will have a significant impact on the surrounding community and will provide training for medical and nursing students.

“Students will be learning and taking care of patients while under the supervision of USF faculty,” DeLotto-Baier said. “The concept being is that it is a new way to provide a team approach to taking care of the patient and educating our health students in medicine and nursing.”

Medicine and nursing students train at the USF medical clinic and Tampa General Hospital as well as other outpatient community clinics in the area.

“(The new clinics) will expand the outpatient portion of their training,” DeLotto-Baier said.

Construction for the center near Tampa General Hospital has already started, while construction for the USF campus has been scheduled for next fall.