Fewer Arizona medical students staying in state

Mar 16, 2013 by

DrBismarckScopeJust under half of the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix Class of 2013 will remain in Arizona for their residencies, a decline from previous years.

Friday was Match Day, the day fourth-year medical students learn where they will spend the next several years as resident physicians. More than 30,000 medical students across the country were eligible for 24,000 slots nationwide.

Residency programs range from three years for general medicine/family practice to eight years for specialized surgeons.

While this year’s 50-member class was the college’s largest since opening, it has the lowest percentage of graduates remaining in state for their residencies.

“We’d always like to see more (remain in Arizona),” said Dr. Jacque Chadwick, vice dean of academic affairs at the college. “We’ve usually been between 50 and 65 percent, but there are some disciplines that just don’t have very many slots in certain areas.”

The college opened in 2007 to help address the shortage of doctors in Arizona. This fall, the college will enroll 80 students, its largest class ever. It hopes to eventually increase class size to 120.

“Over the last 15 to 20 years, we have not increased precipitously the number of slots necessary to accommodate the number of medical students as we graduate them,” said Dr. Michael Grossman, vice president of academic affairs at Maricopa Integrated Health System.

About half of Arizona medical-school graduates remain in state to practice, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Nationally, fewer than 39 percent of physicians practice in the state where they went to medical school, the group said.

“A lot of our students have family in this area, so they may go somewhere else because they feel like that’s the best possible training program, but they want to come back and live and work here,” Chadwick said.

University leaders would love for students to remain in Arizona for their residencies but said it is difficult to keep them in state as there are few places for them to go.

“We need to look at a methodology where we can develop more residency training spots, but that’s not as easy as it sounds,” Grossman said.

Hospitals spend at least $150,000 on each resident, Grossman said. Many Arizona hospitals support their residents through state funds, but the number of government dollars going to Arizona hospitals over the last few years has declined, Grossman said.

“I don’t think hospitals have a big enough profit margin in order to increase the number (of residents) that they already put out,” he said.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said the Legislature could fix that problem.

“As higher-education opportunities increase in medicine, the Legislature has to step up to the plate to create more GME (graduate medical education) slots,” he said. The Legislature’s job “is to make sure that we continue to grow the medical field, research field and bioscience field and to continue to make that a focus of the economy.”

Valley natives Alan and Amber Wang had to look outside the state for residencies because there were no pathology residencies here; Amber specializes in pathology.

They were matched at hospitals in Philadelphia.

“People want to stay here and we want to eventually practice here, but not every specialty is represented here,” Amber Wang said. “And the quality of training here needs to improve.”

In addition to expanding residencies, Phoenix should expand its quality-of-life options for young, urban professionals, Alan Wang said.

“What Phoenix is doing with CityScape and uptown makes the city more desirable, and that’s headed in the right direction,” he said.

Megan Hunt will begin her residency at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix. Hunt, a Florida native, earned her undergraduate degree from Arizona State University and fell in love with the Valley. She said Arizona has the potential to attract more residents like herself.

“I like Phoenix a lot, and I think it’s a growing city and it keeps getting better, but there aren’t as many family medicine programs here as there are in California,” she said.

“The best way to get residents to stay here is to have more residencies here,” she added.

via Fewer Arizona medical students staying in state.

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