The University of Miami announced Thursday it has received a $50 million donation to build a new state-of-the-art building to house its medical program. Nova Southeastern University just named a dean for its soon-to-open second medical school, while Florida Atlantic University and Florida International University have been adding more residency programs to train young doctors.
A medical education expansion is needed, experts say, because two state health groups are predicting Florida will be short 7,000 physicians by 2025.
Prior to 2009, South Florida had two medical schools: UM, which has a traditional medical doctor program, and NSU, which has a doctor of osteopathy, or D.O. program. Soon, the region will have five schools after NSU opens a new M.D. program in 2018. FIU started its M.D. program in 2009 and FAU followed suit in 2011.
“This is good for the area,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, dean of UM’s medical school. “It’s difficult to be the only medical school. It’s important to have a mass effect of people who are very well educated and who are engaged in research activity and medical care.”
The region’s oldest medical school is getting a 21st century makeover. The family of Stuart A. Miller, who chairs UM’s Board of Trustees, has donated $50 million to build a new medical school complex.
Some of the school’s facilities are now more than 50 years old and not equipped for the technology-minded student of today, Goldschmidt said. The new facility will include flat screens, state-of-the-art wireless technology, a media production facility, a teleconferencing center, flexible workstations and a large auditorium.
The dean said the college — with its 800 medical students — is now ranked as one of the 50 best research medical schools in the country, but is aiming for the top 20.
“The rankings are dependent a lot on the quality of students. We already have a tremendous pool of applicants, but we think we can attract some of the best students in the country,” Goldschmidt said. “Better students make better young doctors who become better older doctors, and you have a better quality of medical care in the region.”
The college also announced another major gift this week, $25 million from philanthropist Don Soffer. The money will go to the college’s Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute, which focuses on stem cell research that can lead to cures for heart disease and other diseases.
The Davie-based university announced Tuesday it hired Dr. Johannes W. Vieweg — director of the University of Florida‘s Prostate Disease Center — as a founding dean to help open a second medical school.
The more traditional medical school is designed to help meet the doctor shortage, said President George Hanbury, with a goal of eventually graduating about 150 physicians a year.
The osteopathic medicine program has about 250 doctors in residency training programs, twice as many as a decade ago, and most stay here in South Florida to practice, officials said.
Hanbury said the M.D. program will focus more on research while the D.O. program focuses more on patient care in rural and underserved areas.
Vieweg’s hiring fits in with Nova’s increasing focus on cancer research. In November, the university announced a collaboration with scientists from the prestigious Karolinska Institute in Sweden for stem cell research. Hanbury said five researchers from Sweden will have joint appointments at Nova.
Graduates of the new M.D. program who stay for residencies will likely practice at a planned 200-bed HCA Healthcare hospital on campus or other HCA locations, such as Westside Regional in Plantation, Hanbury said.
The new medical school was initially planned for NSU’s North Miami Beach campus but the university is now considering the Davie campus, which has space and is where its D.O. program is housed.
The Boca-Raton based FAU medical school is also in a growth mode. It plans to welcome its third class of hospital residents in internal medicine July. And it has applied for two additional residencies, in surgery and emergency medicine.
The university has residency agreements with five Palm Beach County hospitals. Right now, most are housed at Boca Raton Regional Medical Center.
FAU officials say the medical school received almost 4,300 applications for 64 spots while the residency program received nearly 4,400 applications for 36 spots.
It’s the residency spots that are most key to solving the physician shortage, said Arthur Ross, interim dean of the FAU medical school.
“There is very good data that shows the best predictor of where a young doctor will ultimately practice is not where they went to medical school but where they did their residency,” Ross said.
Of the 53 students who received an M.D. at FAU’s first medical school graduation last year, 21 stayed in Florida for their residency. But the “litmus test” for success will come in the summer of 2016 when its first group of residents complete their training.
“Hopefully this will be a good destination for them,” Ross said. “If we’re not keeping people in Florida, then we’re not really fulfilling the promise we made.”
FAU has also has partnerships with Scripps Florida and the Max Planck Society, both located on the university’s Jupiter campus, to conduct joint medical and scientific research. Medical students interested in research can apply for a program where they receive an M.D. from FAU and a PhD from Scripps’ Kellogg School of Science and Technology
FIU, based in south Miami-Dade County, serves 480 students and has been expanding since it opened 2009. In the past year, it has opened a new residency training program in family medicine at West Kendall Baptist Hospital, in addition to partnerships with Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, Cleveland Clinic in Weston and Broward Health North in Pompano Beach.
“We’re actively increasing the residencies, because obviously, we want our students to stay here in South Florida and train,” said Dr. John Rock, dean of FIU’s medical school.
Rock said most students who do residencies at FIU stay in South Florida, and many who do residencies elsewhere return. Hispanic students in particular tend to have strong ties to the region, he said.
“They want to be home with their families and the rich culture of South Florida,” he said.
The college is community-focused, with medical students joining faculty and students in the nursing and law schools to visit the homes of low-income residents and address their needs, Rock said. The college has also been bringing a van to local neighborhoods for mammography screenings.
“We’re really embedded in the community, improving the quality of life of men and women here,” Rock said. “That’s a social mission for us.”