College of Medicine to Launch Morehead Site
Media Contacts: Keith Hautala, 859-257-1754, x231 or Amanda Nelson, 859-323-6363, x224
LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 17, 2008) - A new program at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine aims to recruit, train and retain future physicians in the state's medically under served rural areas through the creation of two regional medical school sites, the first of which is scheduled to open at Morehead State University in 2010, UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. announced Tuesday. A second site, in Murray, could open as early as 2012.
The Rural Physician Leadership Track is part of a plan by the college to increase class size by nearly 30 percent over the next several years. Up to 10 students will be recruited for the program each year in 2008 and 2009, raising first-year enrollment from 103 to as many 113 students.
After completing their first two years of medical school - consisting of rigorous training in basic medical sciences - at UK's main campus in Lexington, rural track students will spend their third and fourth years at the Morehead site, which will work in cooperation with St. Claire Regional Medical Center to provide hands-on medical training.
"I am thrilled with our Rural Physician Leadership Track program," Todd said. "Not only does it illustrate our commitment to providing the very best in health care to rural Kentuckians, it is a perfect example of how we are dedicated to connecting our classrooms and laboratories with communities across the Commonwealth. I applaud our College of Medicine for building a program that is responsive to the needs of the state, as it shows what Kentuckians can - and should - expect of its flagship, land-grant university."
UK already has several collaborative programs with Morehead State and St. Claire, including an affiliation with Markey Cancer Center. Mark J. Neff, St. Claire's president and CEO, says the rural track program is the logical next step for both the hospital and university in advancing their mutual goal of improving Kentuckians' access to quality medical care.
"We are very pleased to have the opportunity to work together with UK and MSU to increase the long term supply of physicians trained in a rural setting and to improve health care services to the region," Neff said.
Wayne D. Andrews, president of Morehead State University, says the program will give students from rural areas an incentive to remain in the state to practice medicine after graduation.
"The prospect of training medical students in our joint health education facility is very exciting," Andrews said. "This decision by UK will have a far reaching, positive impact on East Kentucky's health care future."
Kentucky's need for new doctors couldn't be starker, Todd said. A report issued last fall by the Kentucky Institute of Medicine found that Kentucky lagged more than 20 percent behind the national average for number of physicians relative to population. Kentucky has 213.5 doctors per 100,000 residents, compared to the national average of 267.9. The state would need an additional 2,298 doctors just to be on par with the national average.
The shortage is more acutely felt in the state's rural areas, said Dr. Jay Perman, dean of the UK College of Medicine and vice president for clinical affairs.
"The shortage of doctors, particularly in primary-care roles, is felt especially hard in areas such as Eastern and Western Kentucky," Perman said. "The university has a leading role to play in ameliorating this problem, which is both a health care crisis and an economic issue."