Building of the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix. (Photo: Tom Tingle / The Republic)
The University of Arizona's College of Medicine-Phoenix will be expanding its class for the first time since 2012. A move the school hopes will help remedy a continuing medical shortage in Arizona.
As of July 2020, the number of students will increase from 80 to 100.
The school was approved by its accreditation agency, the Medical Education Liaison Committee, and gave the go-ahead for the increase in class size.
The school is located on the Phoenix Biomedical campus on Seventh Street and Van Buren Street and is represented at all three state universities.
Guy Reed, the dean of the school, described the increase as "significant change". The school was designed to provide 120 physicians per year with a degree. The increase to 100 is a step towards full utilization.
The increase comes after Arizona legislation approved $ 8 million to fund the extended class in the last legislative period.
The money will be used for tuition exemptions for medical students to remedy the shortage, the school said.
The appropriation was one Last minute budget addition as part of a compromise that has passed the budget. Cave Creek Republican Senator Heather Carter, who also works at UA Public Health College, said she had the idea. Earlier in the session, she had tried to fund the financing of health and medical education programs through a bill.
Increased size helps doctors shortage
There is a nationwide shortage of doctors. The data released this year by the Association of American Medical Colleges predicted a shortage of nearly 122,000 physicians by 2032.
The shortage in Arizona is one of the worst in the nation, the medical school said in its press release announcing the class increase.
According to the UA Rural Health Center, Arizona has a shortage of GPs in every country, a problem that is even more acute in rural areas. The state covers only 42% of its basic needs, the center said.
In 2018, according to a staff report from the Association of American Medical Colleges, the state ranked 40th in the number of active primary care physicians per 100,000 people.
Reed said Arizona fell to the ground because until the opening of the Phoenix School, Tucson Medical School in the United States was the only school that granted the MD. Arizona began with a lack of medical schools, and as the population boomed, this problem became more pronounced, he said.
Even more need for doctors
The shortage is not due to the lack of interest in the medical school: The school in Phoenix received more than 6,100 applications for the class, which should begin in July 2020, the university said.
Phoenix Medical School opened in 2007 with a class of 24 students. Their class size rose to 48 in 2008 and 80 in 2012. Since its opening, the school has completed 500 doctors.
According to the university, Tucson Medical School has UA the average class size of 115 students.
Due to the lack of funding for more students, the school had grown to 80 students for some time, said Reed. The medical school is expensive, and to cover the students' costs either greater philanthropic or state support is needed. Since the Phoenix School is relatively new, she has not had time to raise large donations, he said.
"We work on it, but it usually takes years," he said.
Even with the increased class size and two other new schools in the city, Mayo and Creighton, the state will still have a "significant need" for more doctors, Reed said.
"There is an idea that now that these new medical schools go online, the problem is solved," he said. "I just want to emphasize that we still have significant needs and that we need to think about how we can increase the number of students."
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