UNC Board of Governors endorses plan to expand medical education in North Carolina

March 7, 2008 — In an effort to address an expected shortage of doctors in North Carolina, the University of North Carolina Board of Governors today (March 7, 2008) endorsed a plan to expand medical education at the state's public medical schools.

The plan is based on a collaborative effort between the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine and the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. In addition, UNC-Chapel Hill will develop facilities in Charlotte and Asheville to accommodate students in the last two years of their medical education. UNC-Chapel Hill's expansion in Charlotte will involve a partnership with Carolinas Medical Center (CMC), as well as collaboration with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in expanding research and related initiatives. The expansion in Asheville will involve Mission Hospital, the Mountain Area Health Education Center, and the Western North Carolina Health Network. ECU's Brody School of Medicine will work with AHEC to expand opportunities for its students to spend much of their third and fourth years in clinical placement in underserved areas.

This is a complex plan that will require more planning activities as each component is developed. The Board of Governors also will consider future requests for funding from the General Assembly. The cumulative cost of the plan is expected to be in the vicinity of $450 million-the bulk of which would provide new and/or renovated facilities-and would be phased in over the next 10 years.

"This is a milestone for our medical schools, as well as the people of North Carolina," said UNC President Erskine Bowles. "We have recognized for some time the threat of a physician shortage in our state. This coordinated plan for expansion positions us to better fulfill our mission to serve the medical needs of North Carolinians. I also applaud the leadership shown by our chancellors and the way our campuses have worked together to develop this joint plan."

The Joint Plan for Medical Education in North Carolina calls for:

  • UNC-Chapel Hill will expand its medical school enrollment from 160 to 230 first-year students on a phased basis, starting in 2009. Brody will expand its first-year medical school enrollment from the current 73 to 120 students in a phased process. The timeline for increasing enrollment will be determined by the fall of 2008.

  • UNC-Chapel Hill's additional 70 students will complete their third- and fourth-year rotations at either the CMC Charlotte campus (50) or Asheville campus (20), starting their regional placements in 2011. Brody's additional students will complete their third- and fourth-year clinical education at satellite training centers located in eastern North Carolina. Those sites will be identified by early 2009.

The plan also calls for a task force representing both public and private medical schools in the state, as well as the Carolinas Medical Center, AHEC, and the Sheps Center at UNC-Chapel Hill, to develop a plan for expanding the number of residencies or slots for graduate medical education in North Carolina and to seek more federal funding to support these residencies. Where a physician eventually decides to practice is highly correlated with where he or she completed a medical residency.

The North Carolina Institute of Medicine, the National Institute of Medicine and the Association of American Medical Colleges all predict a deficit of physicians by 2020, particularly in primary care. Already, fewer physicians are electing to go into primary care, and there are growing problems arising from imbalances in the geographic distribution of physicians. The predicted shortage is of particular concern in North Carolina, where the population is expected to grow 52 percent by 2030.

For more information, contact:
UNC General Administration: Alan Mabe (919) 962-4589
UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine: Kevin FitzGerald (919) 966-9282
Brody School of Medicine: Dr. Nicholas Benson (252) 744 7400
UNC Charlotte: Joan Lorden (704) 687-2624
Carolinas Medical Center: Scott White (704) 355-3141
Mission Hospital: Merrill Gregory (828) 213-4806
AHEC: Tom Bacon (919) 966-4826

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