Medical College of Wisconsin opens two new campuses in response to doctor shortage

Dr. Sarah Sanchez is a graduate of the Medical College of Wisconsin and now is just months away from finishing her first year of residency.

\"On day one, we have the goal of taking complete charge of patients,\" she said. \"Putting in orders, prescribing medications, of course that's observed and closely supervised.\"

She's got two more years to go before she's on her own to practice family medicine.

\"We treat essentially all illnesses, physical illnesses, mental illnesses,\" she continued. \"I was very drawn to caring for patients across the spectrum of life.\"

It's a life span that's lasting longer among Wisconsinites, and as they age, their demand for healthcare is set to outpace the supply of doctors to treat them.

\"It was a pretty substantial shortage of physicians across the state,\" said Dr. Joe Kerschner, Dean of Medical College of Wisconsin.

Dr. Joe Kerschner is referring to a report by the Wisconsin Hospital Association.

Its findings project a shortage of 2,000 physicians by the year 2030. Fifteen years may seem like a long time, but it takes at least 11 years to get students into the workforce. That's why it's critical to act now.

Dr. Kerschner points to maldistribution as the problem.

\"What we know is that in the areas that are more rural in the state of Wisconsin, we're having some difficulties with attracting physicians to stay there for a long period of time,\" he said.

So the Medical College of Wisconsin hopes a new education model is the cure. Its opening a new campus in Green Bay in July and another one in Wausau in 2016.

\"We're creating new residencies in these communities as well,\" Dr. Kerschner continued. \"We're working very hard, especially in primary care and mental health.\"

The new med school programs are three years, instead of four, and will cut down on student loan debt.

\"It's probably about a $250,000 opportunity cost for them to get out a year early,\" he added.

Strict regulations prevent medical schools from large class sizes, but leaders hope expanding opportunities will influence more students to study, train and practice right here at home, just like Dr. Sanchez.

\"I always knew I wanted to stay and work in Milwaukee, so training here just made the most sense,\" she said. \"So, we gotta actively work to keep people in Wisconsin, but I think we are.\"

The new Green Bay and Wausau campuses will each have 25 students to a class every year. However, it will take some time for the Medical College of Wisconsin to see proof that its plan is helping to fix the doctor shortage.

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