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Feb. 4, 2010 Volume 31, No. 18

MU works to expand medical education in the state

Stemming a shortage

Meeting Missouri's needs for more physicians

Responding to a shortage of physicians in Missouri, MU’s School of Medicine will build on its successful medical education partnership with CoxHealth and St. John’s health systems in Springfield.

The organizations are developing a plan that would increase enrollment at the School of Medicine and expand educational opportunities for MU medical students at hospitals and clinics in southwest Missouri.

The need is there. Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services has designated 108 of the state’s 114 counties as underserved in terms of physicians.

Missouri also ranks among the top 20 states in the number of people 65 and older who will require medical care as they age. While the number of elderly is expected to double by 2030, the number of physicians who care for patients with multiple chronic illnesses is expected to decline.

To address the need for more physicians, the Association of American Medical Colleges has called on medical schools to increase class size by 30 percent.

MU is well positioned to meet Missouri’s need for physicians because its medical school has a model curriculum and a rural-track program that encourages physicians to practice in Missouri.  

MU’s medical school already has a strong record of collaborating with the Springfield hospitals to educate physicians. Since 2005, more than 75 MU medical students have received training at southwest Missouri health facilities through the school’s rural track program. That program encourages physicians to complete part of their clinical education in underserved areas and then to practice in Missouri.

“Over the next year, our organizations will work together to identify precisely what resources and strategies we need to increase class size to produce more physicians and improve care for patients throughout Missouri,” says Linda Headrick, senior associate dean for education and faculty development at the School of Medicine.

Today, more Missouri physicians have received their medical degree from MU than from any other university.

More than 175 MU medical school alumni reside in Springfield and Greene County alone.Thousands of other MU medical school alumni help serve rural and underserved communities throughout the state.

For MU to educate more physicians to meet the health care needs of Missouri, the MU School of Medicine will require additional funding for faculty and facilities. Each of the past two years, Mizzou has received more than 1,200 applicants to medical school, but it has the capacity to accept only 96 new medical students annually.

At MU and most other medical schools, students complete four years of education to receive a medical degree and become a physician.

Students primarily spend the first two years learning foundational aspects of medicine from a variety of biomedical scientists and physician educators.

Students spend much of the final two years of medical school in patient-care facilities such as hospitals and clinics. This clinical component of medical student education involves directly interacting with patients under the supervision of physicians practicing in a variety of specialties.

MU medical students also have the opportunity to complete part of their clinical education at hospitals and clinics throughout rural Missouri, including CoxHealth and St. John’s hospitals and clinics. As a result, MU medical students receive clinical education in a variety of settings that represent the diverse health care needs of Missouri.