Joint medical school envisioned in Salisbury

  • Thursday, January 17, 2013

    By Jeremy Cox - Daily Times Staff Writer

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    UMES' pharmacy labSALISBURY - (Jan. 17, 2013) - The Eastern Shore could be home to Maryland's fourth medical school, if the region's health and education leaders have their way.

    Peninsula Regional Medical Center has inked a partnership with three universities to study the idea of opening a four-year medical school at or near the hospital, which is home to the Shore's largest health system and only trauma center.

    The agreement, signed by the four parties in October, envisions the creation of a satellite campus of the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Existing health education and research programs at Salisbury University and University of Maryland Eastern Shore would be integrated into the new school, it states.

    Because of the need to find a location and raise money, construction isn't likely to begin for at least three to five years, officials say.

    In the meantime, PRMC is in talks with UMB about a residency program for recent medical school graduates at the hospital. It could be running as early as this fall with two or three residents specializing in family practice or internal medicine, said Peggy Naleppa, PRMC's president and CEO.

    "We have a significant shortage of physicians in all specialties on the Delmarva Peninsula," Naleppa said. "We know with health care reform and thousands of more people soon joining the insured ranks locally that the demand for not only primary care physicians but also doctors in all specialties will increase dramatically."

    The Eastern Shore is experiencing shortages in 18 of 30 physician categories, according to a 2008 study funded by the Maryland Hospital Association and the Maryland State Medical Society.

    Studies show that more than half of all physicians will set up their practices within 50-60 miles of where they attended medical school or performed their residencies, Naleppa said.

    The region also stands to gain economically, she added.

    "Doctors opening practices on Delmarva will employ staff here, purchase supplies locally and, in turn, contribute to the economies where they work or live," she said.

    Dr. Bruce Jarrell, senior vice president of academic affairs at UMB, sounded more tentative about the partnership.

    "There's not a lot to show at this point," he said Wednesday. "There's a lot of requirements for accreditation and those things take time."

    He cast doubt on the possibility of residents beginning their training in the fall at PRMC. The program would need to be in place by June or July, which seems highly unlikely, he said. Administrators would be "mightily lucky" to be operating it by fall 2014, he added.

    If the medical school moves forward, it won't be anytime soon, Jarrell said.

    "I think you're too many steps ahead. We envision moving ahead on residency planning," he said.

    A consulting firm hired by the coalition recommended that its members create an Eastern Shore medical school and residency program, they said. But they declined to share the report with The Daily Times.

    Established medical schools have created