Las Vegas Sun

October 4, 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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