MELBOURNE, Fla. — Florida Tech will host Brevard County’s first four-year medical school to help combat the growing shortage of physicians in Florida.
What You Need To Know
- The new medical school will open July 2024
- After the first class of 100 graduates in May 2028, they can look at possibly expanding class sizes
- Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine opened in 2013 and welcomed its first class in 2016
- The New Mexico-based school began its direct partnership with Florida Tech in 2020
The undertaking, announced on Thursday, is an expansion of the partnership between the Melbourne-based university and Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Back in 2020, the two partners established a medical student partnership alongside Steward Health Care. It allowed Burrell College medical students to use Florida Tech off-campus housing while conducting clinical rotations at Rockledge Regional Medical Center, Melbourne Regional Medical Center and Steward Medical Group clinics in Brevard County.
On Thursday, Spectrum News spoke with a four-year medical student, Rivka Hughes, at Rockledge Regional as she was discussing cardiology with Dr. Amit Sharma, the Burrell College Regional Dean and the medical director of cardiovascular programs for Steward Central Florida.
She said it’s been a great opportunity for growth as a future physician and within the Brevard County community.
“It was such a welcoming atmosphere from day one, and really, I felt supported by both my peers and my preceptors — all of the physicians that I worked with. They were so passionate about teaching,” Hughes said.
That spirit of teaching will now expand to classes of 100 students, each starting in the summer of 2024 with the newly announced medical school.
The joint announcement was made on Florida Tech’s campus just around the corner from the L3 Harris Commons, where classes for this new school will take place.
There will be nine full-time faculty members along with community physicians who will come in to assist with teaching students, both on campus and in their clinics. Once they fully ramp up to full staffing, the school expects to have about 50 faculty and support staff for the new school.
“You can be confident that both what Burrell will be doing in the years to come, and what we will be doing together, will be to launch these brilliant young people into successful, important careers,” said Robert King, the interim president of Florida Tech.
The undertaking comes at a critical time for the medical field. According to a 2021 study from both The Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida and the Florida Hospital Association, the state will be short about 18,000 physicians by 2035.
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) found that almost 50 percent of primary care physicians will retire in the next 15 to 20 years. They also determined that only 32 percent of Floridians have adequate primary care.
Beyond the benefit of having more physicians to treat Floridians and other Americans, there is also an economic impact as well. The IQVIA National Impact of Physicians Report for the American Medical Association in 2019 found that “the average physician practice supports 17.07 jobs in the economy, including their own.”
That report also showed that “Each physician supports an average of $1.4 million of annual wages and benefits.” Not only that, but “For every 100 new physicians graduating from Burrell College and remaining in Florida to practice, the annual economic contribution would be $141.8 million.”
Rep. Randy Fine was also recently made the chair of the Health & Human Services Committee in the Florida House of Representatives. He said that there are several things that the legislature can do to further support the growth of new physicians in the Sunshine State.
“We can make it easier for people to bring their medical degrees to Florida. We can make it easier to practice medicine in Florida. We can incentivize graduates who are already graduating to stay in Florida,” Fine said. “So, there are lots of things we can look at doing, but the key thing we have to keep in mind is we don’t have enough medical professionals to meet the needs of our growing state and we have to fix that.”
When asked if there are any bills in the works to help move toward some of those goals, Fine said, “Wait and see. Session will be here in just a couple of months and I think you’ll see all kinds of ideas to help address that.”
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