Apr 262013



Friday, April 26, 2013

The community’s medical community this week again found itself in the main stream of conversation among national leaders concerned about the state of the nation’s health care. It is a local role continuing to grow in significance and one sometimes not fully realized, here and elsewhere.

Dr. Paul Cunningham, dean and senior associate vice chancellor for medical affairs at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, took center stage in this discussion as he testified Tuesday at a meeting of the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, a panel chaired by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Cunningham also submitted written answers to committee members’ questions.

“The emphasis will need to shift to managing disease rather than just treating it,” Cunningham said following the hearing. “We’re going to need a lot more primary care doctors to deal with current and future needs.”

The dean’s remarks and other testimony cut to the heart of the issue:

“In the United States today, some 45,000 people unnecessarily die each year because they don’t get to a doctor in time,” Sanders told the committee as he opened this week’s hearing about the nation’s growing shortage of primary care physicians. “Major reforms in primary care will save lives and save billions in health care costs.”

The United States already has such a shortage, according to some sources, and problems of access to primary care will get worse as more people become insured under health care reform legislation.

U.S. medical schools graduated about 17,000 medical doctors in 2011, but only about 7 percent chose to go into primary care. By contrast, more than 19 percent of Brody school graduates entered an accredited family medicine residency program, based on a three-year average for the period ending last October.

This positions the school as one of the nation’s leaders in sending graduates into family medicine, which explains its and its leaders’ burgeoning role in developing the national strategies needed to address the issues surrounding health care in the 21st century.

As provisions of the Affordable Care Act continue to go into effect, this conversation will only grow in intensity. This week’s hearings and Paul Cunningham’s participation, emphasize again the importance of this community in one of the nation’s most central and crucial discussions.

Eastern North Carolina clearly has become and will continue to be a critical proving ground for those deeply involved in the innovation and change sweeping through the health care industry today and in the years ahead.

via The Daily Reflector.


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