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UMKC Medical School Expands Program To St. Joseph, Missouri, With Aim Of Addressing Rural Doctor Shortage

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UMKC School of Medicine is known for its innovative six-year program that admits students directly out of high school.

A federal report predicts Missouri will have a shortage of more than 1,200 primary care providers by 2025.

With the help of a four-year $7 million federal grant, the UMKC School of Medicine is expanding its program to St. Joseph, Missouri, aiming to address the physician shortage in rural areas.

The University of Missouri Board of Curators has approved the plan, which will allow the med school to add 20 students per year in St. Joseph, or 80 students over four years. The medical school typically graduates 100 students a year in Kansas City.

Known for its innovative six-year program that admits students directly out of high school, UMKC's med school in this case will be offering a four-year M.D. program to students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree.

“We are thrilled we will be able to address a critical health-care need in Missouri,” UMKC Chancellor Mauli Agrawal said in a statement. “This will enable more patients throughout the state to get better access to high-quality medical treatment.”

Because most med school graduates tend to stay in or near where they attended medical school, the hope is that the St. Joseph grads will help alleviate a critical shortage of physicians, particularly primary care doctors, in mostly rural northwest Missouri.

The United States faces a shortage of up to 49,000 primary care doctors in the next 10 years, according to a report released in 2018 by the Missouri Hospital Association. A federal report predicts Missouri will have a shortage of 1,220 primary care providers by 2025.

“The disparities in care in rural areas result in higher rates of death, disability and chronic disease for rural Americans,” Mary Anne Jackson, dean of the medical school, said in a statement. “Expansion of our medical school to the northwestern region of our state will serve to bridge this gap, knowing that students training in rural programs are three times as likely to remain in practice in those areas.”

Students in the St. Joseph program will be able to train with Mosaic Life Care, a health care system based in that city that serves northwest Missouri, northeast Kansas, southeast Nebraska and southwest Iowa.

The grant comes from the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that seeks to improve access to health care services for people who are uninsured, isolated or medically vulnerable.

The St. Joseph program will launch in January.

Editor's note: KCUR is licensed to the University of Missouri Board of Curators and is an editorially independent community service of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
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