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Board of Governors Focusing on Medical Residency Shortages

Florida International University and the University of Central Florida started off the school year with a bang-- opening the doors to their shining new medical schools, part of a plan to train more Floridians in the medical arts and research.

But while the new medical schools might be bringing more and more students into Florida, there may be no place for the doctors they make to continue their medical training after their class work.

“You can create new students but you also have to have places to put them,” said Bill Edmonds, a spokesman for the Florida Board of Governors.

A recent report by the Florida Board of Governors says there are 2,832 medical residency positions in the state of Florida. But, the state needs roughly 2,700 more if it hopes to adequately provide for the growth of the medical corps in the state. Florida ranks 46 nationally when it comes to the numbers of resident positions per 100,000 people.

And the shortage of doctors and nurses could become an even greater problem as the baby boomer generation ages, creating a potential strain on hospitals and other medical facilities around the country.

Florida education and business officials have been lobbying the Legislature heavily for the past few years to invest more money in medical sciences and biotechnology. They have done so to an extent, but the majority of residencies are funded by the federal government, not the state. Others are funded by businesses and universities if they can afford them.

The problem, Edmonds said, is residencies are expensive – about $100,000 to $110,000 per person. So finding businesses to pony up extra dollars to pay for more residencies or lobbying the federal government to loosen the purse strings is not easy.

So despite Florida's investment in medical education, they might not be seeing a return on those dollars if students have to move out of state for their residencies.

Board of Governors Chairwoman Sheila McDevitt has pledged to make it a priority of the board to get more residencies for the state, whether it's through lobbying the government for more money or asking private businesses to help fund the spots. Appearing in Tallahassee this week before lawmakers, she and new Chancellor Frank Brogan both pledged to continue working on the residency issue and implored the lawmakers to continue funding programs at the universities.

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