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May 5, 2015

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Truth on doctor shortage

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Having just read the recent articles in the Las Vegas Sun and Review-Journal regarding university Regent Mark Doubrava’s claim that “adding a medical school in the south would help alleviate doctor shortages,” we felt the need to weigh in on the conversation to ensure the community is educated on the true issue of physician shortages.

Southern Nevada does indeed already have a medical school. Touro University Nevada, a private, not-for-profit medical school, opened in Southern Nevada in 2004 and, with this year’s graduating class, has produced more than 500 student doctors in Southern Nevada and is the state’s largest medical school.

The claim that adding a medical school will alleviate the doctor shortage in Nevada is not true. National statistics show that Nevada ranks at the national average for the number of medical students per 100,000 population. Before Touro opened, Nevada was near the bottom of this national ranking. The impact Touro has had on meeting the state’s needs in medical education is clear.

Where Nevada is woefully lacking is in the number of medical residents per 100,000 population — ranking near the bottom of states across the country. All medical students — after four years of medical school — must complete a minimum of three years of residency work to specialize and practice in Nevada.

Today, the majority of the graduates of Nevada’s medical schools have to leave the state to complete their residency because of the lack of residency positions available. National studies show that 70 percent of residents establish their medical practice within 50 miles of where they complete their residency work. Therefore, once the students leave the state, they will likely not come back.

Adding another medical school will only exacerbate the problem — creating more medical graduates who will have to leave Nevada to complete their residency, not to mention expending hundreds of millions of dollars in state funds. To truly address Nevada’s physician shortage, we need more residency programs in local hospitals. That requires local hospitals to step up to the table and invest in the local community to create residency programs. Touro is also pursuing a new concept of community-based residency programs.

Touro has worked to meet the medical education needs of Southern Nevada for nearly 10 years. It is our hope that the focus of the conversation on medical schools moves to where it needs to be — increasing residency positions so we can keep more of the physicians we produce here in Nevada.

Dr. Michael Harter, Ph.D., is senior provost and chief executive of Touro’s western division. Dr. Mitchell Forman, D.O., is dean of the Touro University Nevada’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.

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  1. Medical students per capita does not necessarily translate into physicians per capita. Many graduates may opt to leave Nevada and practice elsewhere. A better correlation might be the percentage of the population that is uninsured. Nevada ranks second in percentage uninsured and 49th in physicians per capita. Texas, which ranks first in percentage uninsured ranks 43rd in physicians per capita.

    Interestingly, Massachusetts ranks first in physicians per capita and has the lowest percentage uninsured. Remember Romneycare?

  2. With the growing populaion of aging baby boomers, and the adversarial doctor laws in Nevada, it is no wonder we have such problems. For a while, neighborhood hospitals were being built on nearly every street corner, with little accountability on the quality of care (Las Vegas Sun won a award for their expose'), and giving back to the community. It is ALL about profits...their sole focus.

    If you open up more resident positions, you then create a competing market for established physicians in a medical facility. Also a problem is the current insurance structure for patients. With some carriers, the red flags go up, and they wait to pay for a claim until that resident doctor comes on board with their carrier list, which is a major inconvenience for the patient.

    We need more favorable laws with pharmaceuticals, and more patient driven care. States that have programs similar to the ACA, aka "ObamaCare" have models where every person who walks through the door is served, regardless of the ability to pay. It is ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I'm with you, Jim, on remembering RomneyCare. It costs far LESS to treat a condition in its early stages, than to pay out of this world costs trying to treat it later. It is commonsense.

    Blessings and Peace,

  3. Your opinion does not even count. You are not a true MD but hocus pocus doctor. You are using this medium to advertise your operation rather than coming with a solution to the discussed issue.