The need is great, and Louisiana College is hoping it can fill that need.
PINEVILLE – The need is great, and Louisiana College is hoping it can fill that need.
It is estimated that by 2020 to 2025 there will be a shortage of doctors, not only in Louisiana but also throughout the United States.
Simply stated thenation does not have enough family practice physicians.
According to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, 86 percent of Louisiana parishes have a health professional shortage. Louisiana ranks among the worst in the nation in percent of population lacking access to primary care, which is due to a critical shortage of primary care doctors.
On Thursday, July 23, LC President Joe Aguillard took a giant step toward addressing those needs by formally announcing the school’s plans to establish a new multi-million dollar medical school.
Using funds from an anonymous donor, a feasibility study was commissioned by the school using Tripp Umbach, a strategic planning firm, and an economic impact report by Baton Rouge-based Flood International Consulting Agency, to determine the feasibility of establishing a medical school at Louisiana College.
After studying the report, the LC Board of Directors voted unanimously Tuesday, July 21, to move ahead with the project.
Those plans call for an initial class of 60 students in 2012, which would eventually grow to 110 incoming students per year, with a proposed $30 million annual operational budget.
In central Louisiana alone, the economic impact is expected to be a staggering $1.1 billion by 2025. The total employment impact of the new medical school is predicted to be 6,702 jobs.
“It is a huge endeavor,” said Aguillard. “The operational budget and massive number of employees will dwarf what we presently have here at the college now – LC’s annual budget for the college’s four-year programs is $20 million.”
LC, which started its School of Allied Health last year, is opening a new, 7,000-square-foot laboratory building for its nursing program and is planning to open a law school in 2011.
Aguillard expects to have a business plan by the end of 2009 and to have raised $5 million by Christmas. That would allow LC to hire a dean and some faculty members to start forming a curriculum.
“A medical school is the natural next step to build on the stellar programs we currently have in pre-med and nursing,” Aguillard said. “This endeavor holds true to the mission of Louisiana College.”
During the past four years, 92 percent of Louisiana College applicants to medical school have been accepted with an entrance exam (MCAT) score above 30. These numbers place the pre-medical training program at LC as one of the best in the southern region of the U.S.
“During the feasibility and economic impact studies, we engaged many health care leaders in our community, throughout the state and across the nation,” Aguillard said. “We discovered that although this is going to be a tremendous undertaking, it is one that can clearly be accomplished with the partnership of area hospitals, foundations, and other health care entities.
“We are in talks with lawmakers, business people, investors and others who support this remarkable project and are eager for us to begin to produce doctors,” Aguillard said.
Though, the proposed medical school would be run by LC, FICA and Tripp Umbach of Pittsburgh – a strategic planning firm – are taking the lead in the fundraising and accreditation efforts that will be key to getting the project off the ground.
The three medical schools in the state — Tulane, LSU-New Orleans and LSU-Shreveport — had more than 10,000 applicants in 2008 and accepted less than 500. There are plenty of qualified applicants who are not accepted to U.S. medical schools who will go on to be productive doctors, said Dr. Jarrett Flood, founder and president of Flood International Consulting Agency in Baton Rouge. Training some of them locally could give this area an edge in keeping them here.
“Thousands of kids are not getting in,” Flood said. “They’re going overseas for their education. At the same time, there is a critical shortage of physicians, and Louisiana is not going to be able to pull them from other states.
“If you keep them in Louisiana, train them at Louisiana College, they do their residency in Louisiana, they are going to most likely stay here.”
In response to LC’s announcement, spokeswomen for two of central Louisiana’s largest health care providers – Rapides Regional Medical Center and Christus St. Frances Cabrini Hospital – told the Alexandria Daily Town Talk that each of their facilities were pleased over the announcement.
“Rapides Regional Medical Center is pleased with the direction Louisiana College is taking in regards to their proposal of establishing a medical school on their campus,” said Charla H. Ducote, vice president of marketing, public relations and business development at Rapides Regional Medical Center. “Many physicians remain in the communities for which they train. Increasing production of health care professionals, such as physicians and nurses, improves community access to health care.
“And being that Alexandria and the surrounding communities are designated as medically underserved, this medical school would only strengthen the ability to provide well-trained physicians for our local hospitals,” Ducote said.
“Christus St. Frances Cabrini Hospital welcomes the announcement that Louisiana College will establish a medical school in our community,” said Susan Tudor, regional vice president of business development and planning for Christus Health Central Louisiana. “We are fortunate to have a very talented medical staff and medical facilities in our community to help provide clinical training for these students. We look forward to the opportunity to collaborate with LC in this endeavor.”
Will the price tag appears to be a steep one for a mostly rural area and a small college to support, the two consulting firms believe funding can, and will, come from a variety of sources, most notably in the form of grants and donations.
“It requires three parts to make it work,” founder and president of Tripp Umbach Paul Umbach said. “The most important is philanthropic giving — individuals and foundations who want to see health care improve in the area, who care about the quality of life and economic development in the community. Since it is an economic development project in its own right, you have state and other sources of economic development funds. The third is what all the partners can pull together, including the hospitals and other health care providers and groups.”