Budget Woes Force Indiana University Medical School to Cut Incoming Class Size

Family Medicine Educator Hopes to Safeguard Rural Primary Care Track

April 20, 2010 03:05 pm Barbara Bein

At a time when new medical schools are opening up and class sizes are expanding, the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis is planning to reduce the number of first-year medical students it admits in August 2010 to deal with a $7 million reduction in state funds.

Medical school administrators at the university have confirmed that 308 students will be admitted this year, 14 fewer than in 2009. The school had been steadily increasing its first-year enrollments since 2006, according to Eric Schoch, manager of science communications in the school's office of public & media relations. But it plans to return to its 2008 enrollment level in response to the economic downturn.

The change comes after Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels ordered state-funded universities to pare their budgets as part of an overall $150 million reduction in state support for higher education. The $7 million cut in the Indiana medical school's budget is its portion of an overall $59 million reduction for Indiana University.

Kevin Gebke, M.D., co-chair of the family medicine department at Indiana University Medical School, told AAFP News Now he is concerned that the enrollment cut could hurt plans to produce more primary care physicians for his state.

Gebke said the medical school has a rural primary care track in Terre Haute, Ind., and many well-qualified students apply for those positions. As many as 60 percent of students who complete the track are projected to go into primary care, and, of those, as many as 95 percent will choose family medicine.

Gebke said the school hopes to find local funding and other state funding avenues to continue to promote and expand that track.

"Our goal is to protect -- but, ultimately, to continue to grow -- that track and make it more of a pipeline for the needs of the state," he said.

Gebke said that at the current rate, the state will have a shortage of about 2,700 primary care physicians by 2020. However, he added, the shortage may end up being even worse because "we have a heavier illness burden, the population is growing and a large number of primary care physicians are retiring."

At least two other medical schools already have cut their first-year enrollment numbers.

The University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City announced last year that it would lower its 2009-10 enrollment from 102 students to 82(www.continuum.utah.edu) after learning it would receive $3 million less from the state of Utah and $10 million less in federal funding. And the University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine reduced the size of its 2009 incoming class by three openings, for a total of 149 new students, according to the medical school's annual report for 2008-09.

The enrollment cuts come at a time when new medical schools have opened and existing medical schools have been increasing their class sizes.


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