Current Weather
The Spy FM

New Medical School Wants To Build Ranks Of Primary Care Doctors

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
April 2, 2013

Michael Ellison has a tough assignment. He’s the associate dean of admissions choosing the first class of a brand new medical school, the Frank H. Netter School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.

“We have over 1,600 applicants, and we will interview 400 for 60 spots,” Ellison says.

The school has a very specific mission: minting doctors who want to go into primary care practice.

Under the Affordable Care Act, millions more people with insurance may be headed to the doctor’s office. That means the medical system will need more doctors, nurses, physician assistants, and other health care workers to meet the demand. Quinnipiac is one of about a dozen new medical schools cropping up, and it’s spending $100 million just to get up and running.

The school’s dean, Bruce Koeppen, says he knows why new physicians don’t usually choose primary care. They don’t make as much money as specialists, they have to know about everything from the common cold to severe depression, and primary care physicians don’t always get the respect that specialists do.

To tackle these challenges, Koeppen says it’s important to admit the right students to the program.

“Turns out that women are more likely to go into primary care than men. Individuals who are coming to medicine as a second career are more likely to go into primary care,” Koeppen says.

David fits into that second category. He is a 35-year-old pharmacist who has applied for the fall semester. (He asked that his last name not be used because his employer doesn’t know he’s thinking of a change.)

In his interview with Ellison, David described wanting to have a greater impact on patients’ lives, such as calming a child who is anxious during an exam or restoring a patient’s heart rhythm in an emergency. “These moments weren’t available to me within the context of pharmacy practice,” David says.

In addition to career changers like David, Koeppen says students who are first in their families to go to college and students who’ve come from medically underserved areas are more likely to pursue primary care.

Henry Sondheimer of the Association of American Medical Colleges says that it’s good to be clear with your applicants right away.

“To the extent that you clarify your mission to your students who apply and, most importantly, when they interview, so they get to see what you’re doing and what you’re looking for. Then you will find the students who will fit your mission,” Sondheimer says. “This is not for show. I think this is a very important, and very serious, effort by these schools.”

The question is, can it work?

Kevin Dorsey says it can, and it does. He’s the dean of the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield, Ill. His school started in the 1970s with a specific mission that still guides it — the school wants students who will stay in central and southern Illinois when they graduate because that part of the state needs doctors.

“I think we take, through a holistic admissions process, people that we think would be a good fit for this region,” Dorsey says. “They are of and from the region, they know the values of the area, we train them here, and they gravitate back.”

Training matters, too, he stresses. His school designed a curriculum that gives prospective doctors hands-on, local experience.

That’s a strategy that Quinnipiac also aims to try, in part by sending its students out regularly to spend a day with primary care doctors. Nationally, about a third of graduating doctors go into primary care and stay there; Quinnipiac’s goal is 50 percent.

This piece is part of a collaboration between NPR, WNPR, and Kaiser Health News. [Copyright 2013 Connecticut Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

12AM to 5AM The Spy

The Spy

An eclectic mix of the Spy's library of more than 10,000 songs curated by Ferris O'Brien.

Listen Live Now!

5AM to 9AM Morning Edition

Morning Edition

For more than two decades, NPR's Morning Edition has prepared listeners for the day ahead with two hours of up-to-the-minute news, background analysis, commentary, and coverage of arts and sports.

View the program guide!

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center