Responding to the shortage of physicians in the Commonwealth, the University of Kentucky College of Medicine is planning to develop a satellite program in Bowling Green for four-year medical education and to expand the Rural Physician Leadership Program (RPLP) in Morehead to a three-year (year-round) medical education program.
The UK College of Medicine initiative ̶ in partnership with Morehead State University, Western Kentucky University, St. Claire Regional Medical Center, King’s Daughters Medical Center and The Medical Center at Bowling Green ̶ will begin as early as 2018.
Currently, the UK College of Medicine is at its capacity at the Lexington campus and although there is a deep applicant pool for medical students, the college can’t expand enrollment without the help of regional partners.
“The Commonwealth of Kentucky has a shortage of physicians, and especially primary care physicians, throughout the state, but particularly in rural areas. This is an acute health care need and an economic one as well,” UK President Eli Capilouto said in announcing the initiative Thursday. “As the university for Kentucky, we are working in close partnership with leading universities in our state and regional medical centers to directly respond to this need. Additionally, this collaboration will allow us to expand college of medicine enrollment in a manner that effectively and efficiently utilizes existing resources throughout the state.”
While details of the broad-based initiative are still being ironed out, UK officials have signed memorandums of understanding with the partners.
“The UK College of Medicine is uniquely positioned to respond to the medical manpower needs in Kentucky in both primary care and subspecialty care,” said Dr. Michael Karpf, UK vice president for health affairs. “This series of partnerships will benefit everyone across the Commonwealth.”
Currently, the UK College of Medicine enrolls 521 students including 139 in the most recent admitted class ̶ the Class of 2019. With this new program, UK plans to increase its class size by approximately 30 percent through expansion to these satellite locations. Revenue generated by additional students in the college will offset costs associated with implementing the satellite programs. Local advisory committees will recommend students for admission to the program.
Basic science and early didactic training will be taught in conjunction with faculty at Morehead State and WKU on those respective campuses through both onsite and distance education modalities, according to UK College of Medicine curricular protocols.
“WKU is pleased to partner with the University of Kentucky and The Medical Center at Bowling Green to help facilitate the expansion of medical education into south central and western Kentucky,” said WKU President Gary A. Ransdell. “We have been working for many years in conjunction with The Medical Center at Bowling Green to address workforce demands in health care, most recently in nursing and physical therapy, and this collaboration will address a critical need that hospitals and communities throughout our region have for more physicians. WKU faculty will be fully engaged, and I’m pleased that our students will have even more opportunities to pursue a medical education here in Bowling Green.”
UK already has been partnering for several years with Morehead State University through a Rural Physician Leadership Program, where students complete their third and fourth years of medical training with rural-centered clinical experiences primarily at St. Claire Regional Medical Center.
“Our partnership with the University of Kentucky and St. Claire Regional Medical Center has helped many students from our region become physicians and physicians’ assistants,” said Morehead State University President Wayne D. Andrews. “Working with UK and St. Claire though our Rural Physician Leadership Program is a win-win not only for Morehead State University, but for our students and the communities we serve. We are delighted to extend these working relationships to expand our reach in helping meet the needs of East Kentucky.”
Mark J. Neff, president/CEO at St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead added, “we are thrilled to be a part of the expansion and growth of the Rural Physician Leadership Program. Since the program began in 2012, St. Claire Regional has assisted 32 medical students to successfully graduate. Doing more to prepare for the shortage of rural health care providers only makes sense for us as we have continued to be dedicated to the training of medical providers in our region since our doors opened. We are proud to say that we have over 50 years of experience in training medical students, as a teaching affiliate of the University of Kentucky and we look forward to many more.”
In addition to the didactic training, clinical education will occur in conjunction with the regional medical provider partners in Ashland, Morehead and Bowling Green.
“We are very proud to be a part of this collaborative effort and we are committed to building programs that support our communities and their future health care needs,” said Kristie Whitlatch, president/CEO King’s Daughters Health System. “We are also committed to retaining our local talent and providing them with the ability to remain in our communities for their educational experience and hopefully for their entire career as a physician. An alliance with the University of Kentucky College of Medicine will be beneficial in recruiting physicians of all specialties so we can keep our health care local and ultimately improve the health of the communities we serve.”
Connie Smith, chief executive officer of The Medical Center at Bowling Green, added, “the establishment of a four-year satellite program at The Medical Center in Bowling Green is the first of its kind in Kentucky. This public/private partnership is an extraordinary means to address one of the most pressing challenges in health care today – the physician shortage. It is an amazing opportunity for area students wishing to pursue a career in medicine, and the entire Commonwealth will ultimately benefit from having greater access to well-trained physicians. This project will have a tremendous impact in south central Kentucky for years to come.”