Chamber panel to support FIU's bid to open medical school
By Tom Harlan
The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce's health-care and bioscience committee added a wide range of industry-related goals at a Friday meeting, and supporting Florida International University's bid for a medical school tops its list.
FIU, which pleaded the university's case for a medical school before the Florida Board of Governors in January, is looking to gain the chamber's support for its plans. The school submitted its proposal for a school of medicine to the board last year after nine years of planning and discussions.
The board, whose members are appointed by the governor to approve or reject new schools at the university level, are to hear a reformulated proposal for the medical school this fall, university officials said.
To prepare for its next presentation, FIU commissioned the Washington Economics Group to conduct an economic-impact study of the proposed school of medicine, said vice provost of academic affairs Tom Breslin.
"The study indicates that at first buildout, the school will establish more than 11,000 jobs in our community and have an economic impact of $750 million," he said.
Training doctors in the area is critical, Mr. Breslin said, because South Florida has the oldest workforce in the country.
"In the long term, with 45% of our physician workforce 55 and over, we are looking to have trained people to work with our population here," he said. "And there's no more logical population trained to do that than our population from this area."
FIU is looking to get approval from the board, Mr. Breslin said, and take the approval and support from the chamber to the Legislature.
Committee members asked questions about whether the proposed program would serve the reported 2 million South Florida residents who do not receive good medical care.
FIU officials said that the proposal would be similar to a Florida State University school of medicine proposal approved by the board that included a pledge to help the medically underserved in rural areas.
And the school would give South Florida students a chance to serve their communities, Mr. Breslin said, adding that South Florida equals 31% of the state's population but only has 11% of its medical students.
Less than 4% of South Florida's physicians graduated from the state's existing medical schools, according to FIU statistics.
In addition, less than 20% of South Florida doctors are educated in a state medical school. About 41% come from other states and the remaining 42% are trained abroad.
South Florida hospitals frequently have to hire out of state and country because local schools don't produce enough interns or graduates to fill residency program slots, said Dr. Rudolph Moise, chairman of the chamber's health-care and bioscience committee.
And foreigners can face language and culture barriers entering the market, he said.
A public medical school in South Florida would allow local minorities the chance to enter medical school system, he said, which is typically competitive and expensive.
"That's a win-win for the medical community," he said. "They'll get a chance to participate in the system and serve the medical population."