University of Minnesota Medical School proposes rural campuses with CentraCare – Twin Cities

With a goal of preparing more physicians to become rural providers, the University of Minnesota Medical School is evaluating options for a new regional campus with residency programs in central Minnesota.

The goal would be to address the growing shortage of doctors in rural Minnesota at a time when the population is aging. dr Jakub Tolar, dean of the U of M School of Medicine and vice president of clinical affairs, earlier this month along with Dr. Ken Holmen, President and Chief Executive Officer, a non-binding expression of interest before the U of M Board of Regents before rural health network CentraCare.

The expression of interest provides several options, including enrolling 20 to 24 students per year on a regional medical school campus in CentraCare, expanding an existing CentraCare residency program in St. Cloud to include specific specialties, and creating new opportunities for collaborative clinical research based on rural health.

Other options include focusing on clinical collaboration to improve access to specialized in-hospital tertiary or quarternary care such as dialysis or cardiac surgery.

At the national level, “there will be a gap of 80,000 rural doctors by 2030,” Tolar told the board, stressing that closing the gap would require the delivery of training in rural areas. “We always knew the answer, but we just never did it — at least not effectively.”

Tolar said he expects to return to the Council of Regency in February with more details and a request for approval of the non-binding expression of interest. Board members expressed enthusiasm for the overall goal, with the expectation that there will be a future review of financial implications and governance issues.

“This appears to be a tremendous opportunity for us … but as we engage in the discussion, it will be important for us to understand some of the metrics, numbers and concrete facts of the proposed partnership,” said Regents Chair Ken Powell, past chairman and Chief Executive Officer of General Mills.

“The financial demands and commitments that we’re both going to take on, I think we need to see,” Powell said. “We’ve learned from experience that the governance, how it’s designed, how it’s set up, the different roles, that’s going to be really crucial.”

CentraCare, a non-profit rural healthcare network, includes eight hospitals and more than 25 senior care facilities, clinics, pharmacies, and inpatient and outpatient specialist services.

The U of M already works with CentraCare through a family medicine residency program established at St. Cloud some 20 years ago, which includes a jointly operated orthopedic program called CentraCare M Physicians Orthopedics. The two are now examining options for an in-depth academic partnership.


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