Sep 252013




Tuesday, September 24, 2013

East Carolina University opened its medical school 35 years ago in an effort to improve health care in rural communities that suffered from a lack of practicing physicians. It was a difficult slog for advocates, who battled the mistaken notion that one medical school — that of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — was sufficient to address the state’s acute need for doctors.

Last week, Gov. Pat McCrory was among the dignitaries on hand to celebrate the opening of North Carolina’s newest medical school, an outgrowth of Campbell University in Buies Creek. Recognizing the new school shares a mission of serving rural communities, officials with the Brody School of Medicine should be among those cheering this addition and its potential benefit to this region.

When leaders at East Carolina and lawmakers serving Pitt County first proposed the idea of launching a medical curriculum here, all understood that the obstacles would be significant. The UNC medical school enjoyed strong legislative support and the loudest voices within the UNC system discouraged any change that would relocate influence from Chapel Hill to Greenville.

Yet, advocates here proved adept at detailing the deep and troubling state of health care in North Carolina’s rural corners. Communities across eastern North Carolina did not have convenient access to hospitals, doctors or insurance — and suffered as a result. A program founded to alleviate that disparity and bring care to the least fortunate would be an undeniable benefit to the entire state.

The Brody School of Medicine has proven an unqualified success and it has helped improve and extend the lives of an untold number of area residents. However, North Carolina still ranks 34th in the nation for primary-care physicians per capita and nearly two dozen counties lack a general surgeon. East Carolina’s medical school cannot be expected to single-handedly solve those problems.

It should therefore welcome the promise of the new School of Osteopathic Medicine at Campbell. University officials there have the school on pace to be the state’s second largest in four years, with a student population of 600 by 2017. It is expected to create more than 1,300 jobs over the next decade, with an economic impact of $350 million.

It might be natural for officials here to view this development warily, as Chapel Hill did with East Carolina some 35 years ago, but the potential aid for North Carolina’s rural corners should be the priority. If Campbell can help, then the whole state will benefit.

via The Daily Reflector.


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