Good Medicine

By Hannah Wallace October 31, 2008

Five years ago, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) broke ground on its Bradenton facility, marking the second location for the Erie, Penn.-based medical school. Since then, the college has graduated its first class and opened a school of pharmacy. Robert George, D.O., associate dean of academic affairs, discusses its impact on our region.

Where do LECOM students come from?

From all over. Forty-two percent are from Florida, and 28 percent to 31 percent are from other states. This year we had 3,000 applications and interviewed 700 people for 150 positions. Our first graduating class (in June 2008) had 137 students, and of those, 34 stayed in Florida to do their training. And as far as declaring specialties, emergency medicine is the No. 1 choice—we (currently) have 20 students in that specialty—followed by internal medicine, pediatrics and family medicine.

Where are students making the biggest economic impact here?

It’s projected that our 600 students spend about $60 million dollars here; they pay rent, they buy groceries. Ever sector is impacted every day. It’s a very positive boost for the local economy. And we’re trying to develop new training programs to get students to stay here. Now that local hospitals see that our students do good work, they’re looking into developing those programs.

Where do they intern?

Students have a lot of latitude in terms of their rotations—in years three and four, they can go anywhere in the U.S. Locally, they go to Manatee Memorial, Blake, Doctors Hospital—the only local hospital they don’t go to is Sarasota Memorial, which works with students from Florida State. And 100 percent of students go on to do specialized training in their chosen fields of study.

What issues are students going to face after their time at LECOM?

There are a lot of issues facing physicians in the U.S. right now—malpractice lawsuits, escalating overhead, Medicare cutbacks, employer cutbacks. And (with Florida), you have a state that’s No. 4 (in the U.S.) in population and that’s one of the hardest hit in terms of the national physician shortage. You have to have people to meet the demand of caring for people, and not just retirees. But there are great opportunities in Florida, especially if we develop more training programs. As far as the business side of medicine, though, we leave that to students’ residency programs—it’s too early to get into that while they’re here. However, we do offer a class on healthcare management.

What’s on the horizon for LECOM?

As far as healthcare programs go, we’re pretty much set. The School of Pharmacy opened two years ago, and the first class has already completed its first two years; it’s a four-year-program, and we just started our second class this year. Pharmacy is another area in which there are crucial (workforce) shortages. And we’re set in our building; if we do expansions, it’ll be in the near future, but we haven’t done anything that’s newsworthy yet. Everything is happily in place; things are going well, our students are successful and they’ve all received excellent residencies after they graduated.

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