Tuesday, May 8, 2007

University of St. Thomas to Establish New Med School?

"Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look.
He thinks too much; such men are dangerous."

From the StarTribune:

State's 3rd med school in the works

Allina and the University of St. Thomas are in talks about an effort to train primary-care doctors.

By David Phelps, Star Tribune

Last update: May 07, 2007 – 11:42 PM

Allina Hospitals & Clinics and the University of St. Thomas are exploring the establishment of a back-to-basics medical school in Minneapolis to train primary-care physicians.

The two organizations are in the talking stage at the moment but plan to present the concept of a 40-student-per-class school to their respective boards of directors later this week.

A statement from St. Thomas and Allina on Monday said additional doctors are needed "given population growth in the Upper Midwest and the increasing number of retirees who will need health care."

Allina is the second-largest nonprofit health care services provider in Minnesota. St. Thomas is the state's largest private university, with a large graduate business school and a new law school.

St. Thomas already offers a health care MBA, and the business school houses the university's Center for Health and Medical Affairs.

The two organizations would use clinics and hospitals in the Allina system, with a likely focus on Abbott Northwestern, as classrooms, and doctors and other clinicians would serve as faculty members.

The emphasis would be on primary care, much along the lines of the old-fashioned family doctor practice.

Minnesota currently has two medical schools: the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center in combination with the University of Minnesota Duluth, and the Mayo Clinic. The university is the largest, and last week graduated 220 doctors. Mayo graduates about 40 doctors a year.

Minnesota can use an additional medical school because the state proportionately graduates fewer doctors than its neighboring states, according to Allina's analysis of the market. Minnesota has a ratio of one doctor graduated for every 20,000 residents. Wisconsin's ratio is one doctor to 15,000 residents and Iowa's is one doctor for every 9,000 residents, Allina said.

The shortage of primary-care physicians can be attributed, in part, to the lure of higher-paid specialties such as cardiology and orthopedics. The median income for doctors in family practice is about $150,000 a year, about half of what specialists can earn.

It's difficult to lure primary care physicians to inner-city neighborhoods where a disproportionately high number of patients lack insurance, their medical problems are compounded by poverty or violence and where doctors are reimbursed through government programs that pay less than private insurance for standard procedures.

"We anticipate there will be a shortage of primary-care physicians, but we haven't yet concluded that adding another medical school will solve a problem created by very low reimbursement rates from Medicare, which drives the overall compensation package for primary care doctors," said Mary Brainerd, HealthPartners CEO.

And potential sources for financing medical education are dwindling largely because of federal cutbacks, said Mary Koppel, spokeswoman for the U's Academic Health Center.

"We have 154 years of experience we'd be more than happy to share. But the margins are small in all aspects of health care, and every source of funding in medical education is at stress. We're here as a resource for everyone, and I'm sure we can be of help during that [feasibility] phase of discussion."

The University of St. Thomas is an interesting institution. They recently started a Law School, that is already accredited, and have persuaded a very strong BigU law school faculty member to join them:

Paulsen leaving University of Minnesota:

After 16 years on the faculty of the law school, Mike Paulsen has announced he's joining the University of St. Thomas law faculty in Minneapolis starting this fall. He is a scholar of the first order, an irreplaceable colleague, and a personal friend. He will be greatly missed.

Michael S. Paulsen

McKnight Presidential Professor of Law and Public Policy, Briggs & Morgan Professor of Law, Associate Dean for Research and Scholarship
Northwestern University, B.A.
Yale University, M.A., J.D.

Perhaps BigU, even with 154 years of experience, can learn some things from the University of St. Thomas?



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