(This is the first of a collection of reflections from David Smith, MD, President of Upstate Medical University, the region’s only Academic Medical Center.)
Medical students who will graduate this spring celebrated a transition called Match Day on Friday. Along with medical students all over the country, the 145 fourth-year students from Upstate learned where they will go for their first years of training, known as medical residency. After earning an MD, this is the next phase on the journey of becoming a doctor.
While students from Upstate will train at dozens of hospitals throughout the country, more than 40 percent are staying in New York State, and 25 will stay right here in Syracuse.
As residency location is a strong predictor of where a doctor will will practice, we are pleased with this commitment to New York State. One of our goals is to serve our region by attracting, training and retaining doctors.
This year, our College of Medicine class had a higher percentage of New York residents than the other 12 medical schools in the state. Almost 88 percent of our first-year students came from New York — and that was no accident. We have made a dedicated effort to do this over the last seven years.
There also is benefit to a community to having an academic medical center that goes far beyond providing care and health professionals. Our very existence fuels economic development. People will not stay in an area that does not have quality health care, just as they won’t stay where quality education is not available. Upstate provides an important intangible benefit for Central New York’s economic wellbeing.
Half of our graduating students this year chose residencies in primary care specialties, including family medicine, pediatrics, internal medicine and obstetrics and gynecology. Some will choose to subspecialize, but many want to practice primary care. To get more students interested in primary care, we’re going to need to see some policy alignment nationwide— including from health care payors and from Washington — to provide the right incentives. We can produce more primary care providers, but incentives have to be in place to compensate them.
Within our strategic plan at SUNY Upstate, we have a proposal for 30 percent growth in our medical school class size. This plan is aimed at helping New York State with its physician shortage. The reason we can’t move forward on that plan has been the recurring state budget deficits and the concurrent reductions to the State University of New York. To expand our class size, we must hire more faculty, and that cannot happen until that funding is stable.