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MU and Springfield Health Systems Developing Plan to Produce More Physicians for Missouri



In response to the shortage of physicians in Missouri, the MU School of Medicine in Columbia and CoxHealth and St. John’s health systems in Springfield intend to build on their successful medical education partnership. The organizations are developing a plan that would increase enrollment at MU’s medical school and expand educational opportunities for MU medical students at hospitals and clinics in Southwest Missouri.

Nearly 90 percent of Missouri counties lack adequate access to health care professionals. Missouri also ranks among the top 20 states in the nation in terms of the number of people 65 and older who will require more 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 in Missouri and across the country, the Association of American Medical Colleges has called on all medical schools to increase class size by 30 percent. MU is well-positioned to meet Missouri’s need for physicians because its School of Medicine has an internationally admired curriculum and a highly acclaimed rural track program that encourages physicians to practice in Missouri.

The MU School of Medicine in Columbia and St. John’s and CoxHealth health systems in Springfield have a strong record of collaborating to educate physicians. Since 2005, more than 75 MU medical students have received training at Southwest Missouri health facilities through the MU School of Medicine rural track program. The program encourages physicians to complete part of their clinical education in underserved areas and to then practice in Missouri.

Today, more Missouri physicians have received their medical degree from MU than from any other university. More than 175 MU physician alumni reside in Springfield and surrounding communities in Greene County alone. Thousands of other MU physician alumni help serve rural and underserved communities throughout the state.

“Building on the well-established partnership between the MU School of Medicine, St. John’s and CoxHealth would improve health care by expanding patient access to well-trained physicians, as well as increase student access to high quality medical education,” said Linda Headrick, MD, senior associate dean for education and faculty development at the MU School of Medicine. “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.”

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, MU has received more than 1,200 applicants to medical school, but it only has the capacity to accept 96 new medical students annually.

At the University of Missouri School of Medicine in Columbia 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 in educational facilities — such as classrooms, labs, libraries and auditoriums — 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, such as family and community medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, surgery, neurology, psychiatry, obstetrics and gynecology.

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.

Throughout their four years of medical school, MU medical students benefit from a wide variety of educational opportunities in Columbia. For more than 160 years, the University of Missouri in Columbia has educated medical students and conducted medical research in partnership with MU’s hospitals and clinics and life sciences schools across campus. These resources have made MU one of only 34 public universities, and the only public institution in Missouri, to be selected for membership in the Association of American Universities. MU also is designated as comprehensive doctoral in medicine/veterinary medicine by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
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