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Education news and issues in the Ozarks.

Local Education Leaders, Hospitals Celebrate Increased Access to Medical Education

Springfield will soon be the home of a University of Missouri Clinical Campus and expanded healthcare programs at Missouri State University.

The programs are part of an effort to relieve the statewide shortage of healthcare workers. Each had experienced delays in funding, but improvements in the budget and progress at the legislative level this year are moving the programs forward. Those accomplishments were celebrated in a press conference Tuesday morning.

“The two largest healthcare providers in the region, Mercy and Cox Health, and the two largest universities in the state, University of Missouri and Missouri State University, working together jointly to do something that neither of these projects would have ever been able to accomplish on their own,” explains Matt Morrow, president of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce.

The latest funding for the MU Clinical campus and MSU’s occupational therapy programs is thanks to a $26 billion budget signed by Gov. Jay Nixon last month. The University Of Missouri School Of Medicine will receive $10 million, and Missouri State University will receive $1.3 million.

MU will use the funds to expand the class size of its School of Medicine and establish a Springfield clinical campus.  

This means medical students will spend the first two years of the program in Columbia, then transfer to Springfield to complete training at Cox and Mercy hospitals.

Dr. R. Bowen Loftin, University of Missouri Chancellor, says Springfield was a simple choice for the campus expansion.

“This is a high growth area in Missouri right now, and the population growth here has outstripped the ability of the physicians in the area to serve the population well,” says Loftin.

He says the university hopes that students will stay and begin their practice in Springfield after completing their final two years of clinicals.

“75% of medical school graduates who come out of the University of Missouri system, actually end up practicing in Missouri, and we believe we’ll have a similar kind of success rate specific to the Springfield community, if not better,” says Morrow.

The funds will be used to construct a building in Columbia for the first two years of basic science instruction, and to lease space on National Avenue between the two hospitals to support the local students and staff, according to Loftin.

The clinical campus’ first students are set to begin in June 2016.

For Missouri State University, the $1.3 million will be used to establish a two-year Master of Science occupational therapy program, along with adding an average of 15 students to the nursing program at the West Plains campus.

Students in the occupational therapy program will work in a new building on the MSU campus. Sapna Chakraborty, MSU’s Occupational Therapy Program director, says she’s especially excited about the new building’s equipment.

“There’s a [simulated] restaurant, a grocery store, an apartment- so it’s like a simulated environment where students can have hands on experience,” Chakraborty says.

In addition to their work on campus, students will begin their field work at Mercy or Cox during the second semester of the program, according to Chakraborty.

She adds that occupational therapists are in high demand in the area, specifically in the more rural areas near Springfield.

The program will enroll 48 students annually. This fall, 24 students will begin their studies.

Overall, the University of Missouri and Missouri State University’s partnership with Cox and Mercy is expected to greatly relieve the state-wide physician shortage.

The collaboration is expected to result in 3,500 new jobs, adding more than 300 physicians and $390 million annually to the state of Missouri, according to University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe.

Jay Guffey, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Mercy, says most importantly, the program will make healthcare more accessible to Missouri’s citizens.

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