Budget fallout? More medical school graduates leaving Louisiana

LSU’s medical school in New Orleans says fewer of its students want to stay in Louisiana to finish their training because of the continued threat of state budget cuts.

LSU Health New Orleans announced today that 89 of its 193 graduating medical students—46%—decided to remain in Louisiana for their residency program. That’s down from 49% last year and 64% six years ago.

Chancellor Larry Hollier says students feel anxious about the state’s budget troubles, which repeatedly threaten medical schools and other college programs with deep cuts. Again, higher education is at risk of reductions in the budget year that begins July 1.

“Our graduates are in great demand by programs in other states, and the constant uncertainty is driving them out of Louisiana in growing numbers. We are very concerned about the future of health care here,” Hollier says.

The school’s residency programs in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles and Bogalusa will accept a total 215 new residents. The vast majority of those physicians are LSU Health-trained doctors. Roughly 79% of the 89 LSU Health-New Orleans graduates staying in Louisiana will enter an LSU Health residency program.

“A decline of 18 percent in the last five years is of concern,” says Dr. Steve Nelson, dean of the School of Medicine at LSU Health New Orleans. “The anticipated opening of University Medical Center New Orleans bolstered our Match numbers in 2012, but consternation about the future of UMC and our other teaching hospitals, as well as the fate of our residency programs based in them, is taking its toll.”

Constant budget uncertainty is making it increasingly difficult to retain highly qualified graduates and replace retiring doctors. Graduates training in other states will be going to programs as Johns Hopkins, Vanderbilt, the University of Alabama-Birmingham, the Medical University of South Carolina and Emory University.

The match, conducted annually by the National Resident Matching Program, is the primary system that matches applicants to residency programs with available positions at U.S. teaching hospitals and academic health centers.

Baton Rouge General says 18 new doctors will be joining its family medicine and internal medicine training programs. Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center says 65 new residents will be coming to Baton Rouge next year.

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