Doing more with less to reduce North Carolina’s physician shortage

Earlier this month, AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) announced a bit of good news concerning the nation’s looming physician shortage, a result of increased demand for care from a growing and aging population. According to their projections, the nation’s medical school enrollment is on target to achieve the 30 percent growth needed in the supply of physicians by 2016.

Most of this growth (58%) results from the expansion of existing medical schools like ECU’s Brody School of Medicine (BSoM). The rest has come about from the creation of new physician programs. Despite the heartening trend, more than half of institutions surveyed indicated concern with their ability to maintain or increase enrollment due to the current economic environment.

At Brody, we have increased enrollment by 11 percent since 2006. Eighty new medical students will start this fall, marking the largest incoming class in the school’s 35-year history (which started with 28 students in the inaugural 1977 class).

For now, this will likely be the largest class Brody can sustain. A 2006 BSoM task force set a student cap at 80, given the current number of faculty, classroom and lab facilities, and clinical sites. Like many North Carolina institutions, the BSoM at ECU has lost roughly a third of its state funding over the last three years, making further expansion impossible without a substantial increase in state revenue.

Regardless, the BSoM remains steadfastly committed to its mission: educating primary care physicians to serve the people of our state. In our students we instill a love of learning, commitment to service and concern for people. In fact, we rank in the top 10 percent of all US medical schools for graduates who go into Family Medicine, practice in rural areas, and practice in underserved areas.

— James G. Peden, Jr. MD,  Associate Dean of Admissions