OHSU, PeaceHealth, UO to Explore Expanding Medical Education Program to Eugene-Springfield Area

11/19/04    Portland, Ore.

OHSU School of Medicine is working to develop partnerships with other entities statewide to increase its capacity to train more physicians, encourage them to practice in Oregon.

Oregon Health & Science University will sign a letter of understanding with the University of Oregon and PeaceHealth, Oregon Region, to examine new opportunities for training physicians in Oregon and to address the coming work force shortage.

"An estimated 1,255 Oregon doctors will leave the work force by 2006, and by that time only 216 new physicians will have graduated from the OHSU School of Medicine," said Dean Joe Robertson, M.D., M.B.A. "To address the coming shortage and to better meet the health care needs of Oregonians, we are exploring a number of opportunities at several sites around the state for educating more physicians, including a Eugene/Springfield-based expansion of the OHSU School of Medicine medical education program."

OHSU President Peter Kohler, M.D., UO President Dave Frohnmayer and PeaceHealth Oregon Region CEO Alan Yordy have agreed that their institutions will develop a proposal to partner in helping to solve the physician work force shortage. Preliminary discussions have focused on a three-way collaboration that would allow a cohort of medical students to train at the University of Oregon and at PeaceHealth for significant portions of both their basic and their clinical experience.

By developing this regional partnership, the health care needs of all Oregonians will be enhanced by taking advantage of the remarkable talent of the scientific research community at the UO and the strength of the clinical environment at Sacred Heart Medical Center.

"I am delighted that the University of Oregon has been invited to join in this endeavor," Frohnmayer said. "We look forward to bringing our strong legacy of interdisciplinary research and the quality of our academic science programs to this important partnership for Oregon's future."

"This partnership brings together our collective strength to do what none of us could have done individually," said Yordy. "We need to be prepared for the future, with the growing population of baby boomers and the growing number of Oregonians, to provide the level and quality of care that we have all come to expect."

A development team with members from each organization will meet for the next few months to discuss these concepts and develop a formal business plan for the Eugene program.

Over the past two decades, the OHSU School of Medicine has gradually increased its incoming class size of new medical students from 90 to 104 - this year it admitted 108, according to Robertson. That number, he says, should be closer to 200, which would still be 15 percent to 20 percent too short, according to a recent report by the Association of American of Medical Colleges.

In addition to increasing the number of medical students admitted to the School of Medicine on the Portland campus - the class size will be expanded from 108 to 116 for the 2005-06 academic year - OHSU leaders are considering multiple approaches for boosting the number of health care providers in the state. These include the development of a more decentralized, community-based educational model with the addition of new program and clinical rotation opportunities in collaboration with other educational institutions and health systems around the state; the creation of new research opportunities for medical students; and the development of interdisciplinary programs with other health professional and engineering schools.

One new approach to increasing the number of physicians practicing in non-urban areas of Oregon is the OHSU Rural Scholars program currently under development. "The program will seek to recruit students who have an interest and an aptitude for practicing in small communities," said OHSU Provost Lesley Hallick, Ph.D. "Presently all OHSU medical students complete one rural rotation in their third year. A special curriculum for the rural scholars will be developed that allows them to receive a substantial amount of their medical education and to complete several clinical rotations outside the urban area." OHSU, in partnership with local health care providers, plans to develop fellowships, workshops and other forms of continuing medical education courses to facilitate continued growth and development of the graduates of this program, to encourage these physicians to practice in underserved communities, and to assist communities in their efforts to retain health care providers.

"The School of Medicine has increased its entering class incrementally each year, but this has stretched the physical size of the school to its limits" said OHSU President Peter Kohler, M.D. "While we continue to work with the Legislature to increase state funding for medical education, in these hard times we are partnering to create solutions for the coming work force need. Developing partnerships with other universities and health care facilities around the state is one way to increase class size and, we hope, the number of physicians practicing in Oregon."