Medical College in Wisconsin Explores Expansion

To help address the shortage of primary care physicians in Wisconsin, the Medical College of Wisconsin is proposing an expansion aimed at educating physicians in more rural areas in hopes that they might choose to settle down and practice in those areas, according to the Business Journal. The college’s proposal includes a goal of training up to 100 physicians each year at new strategic locations throughout the state, a move that would boost the college’s presence throughout Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel noted. Because of the challenges of bringing about such an expansion, the proposal is still in the planning phase and is currently the subject of a six-month feasibility study.

The proposal indicates that the new sites would be satellite locations of the medical college, and that the expansion would take place in partnership with other higher education institutions and health systems, the Journal-Sentinel article said. The program could be implemented as early as 2014 if all goes smoothly, and will start with the addition of one satellite site, with others to follow in the future. However, the proposal faces a variety of challenges, including finding faculty and local physicians who can teach classroom and clinical courses, not to mention funding. The feasibility study is slated to reveal the potential expansion’s projected cost. The expansion plan will entail creating more residency programs for primary care physicians, since physicians are required to complete a three-year residency upon graduating medical school if they plan to specialize in family medicine, internal medicine, or pediatrics.

Proponents say this expansion, and similar ones planned by other entities in the state, is important because fewer doctors are choosing to pursue primary care. This is because pursuing other medical specialties often proves more lucrative for a physician’s career in the long-term. A Wisconsin Hospital Association report showed that the state needs to prepare 100 more physicians a year than it is currently producing to curtail a dramatic physician shortfall in the thousands by 2030, the Journal-Sentinel reported. The lion’s share of the shortage involves primary care physicians, the study reportedly showed.

The medical college has decided to focus its expansion efforts into eight regions in Wisconsin, including Green Bay, the Fox River Valley area, North Central and Northwest Wisconsin, Eau Claire, La Crosse, Janesville/Beloit, and Racine/Kenosha, the Business-Journal noted. Representatives from the medical college have been busy spreading the word about the proposed expansion, and already have a few supporters and potential partners from physician groups and universities. The Journal-Sentinel article reported that the president of Green Bay-based Prevea Health was a supporter and thought the expansion effort was feasible due to advances in technology.

A dean at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point told the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune that he hoped the Medical College of Wisconsin would work together with UW-Stevens Point to share resources. However, it remains to be seen whether health systems would be willing to pay a portion of the cost of residency programs, since the federal government caps the number of residency program slots.

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