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Published: Saturday, 2/23/2008

Only 2-4% of UT med students want to stay

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Only 2 percent of fourth-year medical students indicate the first choice for their residencies is to stay at the University of Toledo Medical Center, a figure that shocked at least one local official.

And northwest Ohio overall is the top pick for only 4 percent - even though university officials have tried this year to focus on retention, according to results of a survey requested by the Commission on the Future of Health Care Education and Physician Retention in Northwest Ohio. Survey results are from 98 of about 150 fourth-year students at the former Medical College of Ohio.

Typically, 30 percent to 40 percent of newly minted doctors remain associated with their medical schools for residencies. And a year after just 8 percent of medical school graduates stayed in Lucas County, the dismal survey results are astounding, said Dr. Jeffrey Gold, dean of UT's college of medicine, as well as executive vice president and provost for health affairs.

"When I saw the 2 percent number, I was just blown off my chair," Dr. Gold told fellow commission members yesterday during a meeting at Owens Community College. He said at least some of those who wish to stay in the area likely have parents who are local physicians.

Members met as part of their quest to provide state leaders with a report in May outlining potential solutions to the Toledo area's problems with graduate medical education and retaining doctors.

In 1996, 22 percent of local medical school graduates remained in Lucas County for residency programs before a generally downward trend began to last year's 8 percent.

In mid-March, matches between fourth-year medical students at UT and their residency programs will be announced. Not all students get their first pick for residency programs, so the percentage of those staying at UT's medical center and other northwest Ohio hospitals could be higher than 2 and 4 percent, respectively.

The survey showed that location, reputation, and quality are top factors influencing fourth-year students on selecting a residency program - results that are similar to recent years, Dr. Gold said.

Graduates are going to large graduate medical education programs on the coasts or cities such as Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus, he said.

UT, which has stepped up and achieved full accreditation for all of its residency programs, has been recruiting higher-quality medical students in recent years, and they have more choices for graduate programs, said Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, UT president.

Meanwhile, troubled relationships with ProMedica Health System in the last decade have made local medical education unstable, affecting student choice, Dr. Jacobs said.

Business issues that should remain separate have become embroiled in medical education, said Dr. Jacobs, harkening to last year's prolonged dispute with ProMedica about Toledo Hospital rotations for third-year medical students.

"Our programs have not been very stable in the community," Dr. Jacobs said.

The Toledo area does not have programs for some specialties that recent medical graduates want to pursue, which also affects residency choices, Dr. Gold said.

But UT is trying to get about 160 more government-funded residency positions for existing and additional programs at local hospitals, he said.

State Rep. Peter Ujvagi (D., Toledo), who requested the commission's formation last year and is its vice chairman, said the Ohio Board of Regents is going to help perform a quick survey of recent UT medical school graduates who left the area so leaders can learn more about their decisions to go elsewhere.

Creating a mentor program for medical students by matching them with community physicians may be one way to help retain them, said Dr. John McGreevey, medical director of Hospice of Northwest Ohio.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at: jmckinnon@theblade.com or 419-724-6087.



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