Sunday, April 29, 2012

Texas’ Medical Students Access to Quality Medical Education Protected

By Amir H. Barzin, MS
Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine-OMS IV

All of the comments listed below are from my perspective as a graduating medical student from the University of North Texas Health Science Center-Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, and in no way reflects the views of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Recently, the American University of the Caribbean (AUC) applied for authority from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB)to establish coursework that would lead to a medical degree. Specifically, AUC requested that the coordinating board grant authority for AUC’s third-and fourth-year medical students to study at established clinical locations in Texas.Upon realizing the possible deleterious effects this arrangement, the Texas medical community rallied to submit letters of opposition. THECB received letters from the deans of the nine Texas medical schools, the Texas Medical Association (TMA), the TMA Medical Student Section Executive Council, and the Texas Osteopathic Medical Association.

As a student, I was thrilled to see members of the Texas medical community come together on this an important issue. The size of enrollment at Texas medical schools has increased dramatically. Just in the past seven years, Texas has seen nearly a 32-percent increase in our incoming class size. Couple that with our dwindling population of clinical educators, and you can see how valuable quality clinical rotations are to the success of our students. Other states, such as New York, have seen what bringing in off-shore medical schools that can pay upwards of $400-$450/week/student can do to the supply of clinical rotations. Engaging in an agreement with AUC would likely cause the cost of rotation spots to increase, and thus undermine the hard work of countless elected officials and academic executives who have continued to keep Texas medical schools among the most affordable in the country while maintaining a high level of education.

Recently, THECB acted on AUC’s proposal by directing coordinating board staff to seek a formal opinion from the Office of the Attorney General (AG) regarding the board’s authority to issue a certificate of authority to foreign medical schools. All medical students and educators in Texas should view this as a huge victory. By requesting the AG’s opinion, the board, in my opinion, was stating that more research needs to be concluded before such a pivotal decision can be made. Further, I think we should all commend THECB, especially David Teuscher, MD, for recommending that before any decision be made, the board gather information regarding the state of clinical rotations in Texas. His study will look at the total number of total rotation spots, number of available spots, number of projected spots needed (accounting for growth in schools), and the capacity to grow. The study will further look at this data in terms of third-year, core clinical rotations and separately look at the same data for fourth-year elective rotations to produce a comprehensive study. Nothing like this has ever been done, and we should commend THECB for looking into this critical issue to give us a better pulse of what our possibility for growth in medical education in Texas schools can be before we allow a precious commodity to go to off-shore schools.

In summary, Texans should be excited to see the importance of medical education stressed to this extent. As a medical student, I know my colleagues and I just want the opportunity to continue to receive the highest quality of education in hopes of helping Texans through the power of healing. We want to maintain the affordability of Texas medical schools and the high quality of education. If anything, this proposal brought forth how important our physician supply truly is to the future success and growth of Texas. Hopefully, the coordinating board and legislators will use information gathered as a way to construct the appropriate rules and regulations that will protect our medical schools in Texas for years to come.

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