Proposals to renovate and expand the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington raised the idea of moving the UConn schools of medicine and dentistry into Hartford.
As a Connecticut native and a fourth-year medical student at UConn, I am invested in both the growth of health care in Connecticut and the future of Hartford. Moving the medical school might help in both these areas, but as important is creating conditions that encourage newly trained doctors to remain here.
The UConn medical school houses its first two years of coursework at the health center. At this suburban location, we have established facilities including laboratories for anatomical dissection, technology equipped classrooms for small group learning and an extensive library, as well as recently renovated lecture halls and a clinical skills assessment center.
We share our campus with the John Dempsey Hospital, the UConn Graduate School and extensive basic science and clinical research laboratories. As Dr. Cato T. Laurencin, dean of the UConn school of medicine, has said, we greatly benefit from this collaborative environment; we are able to participate in research projects and to be taught by world-renowned experts.
During the third- and fourth-year clinical rotations, most medical students leave our Farmington base to work at our partner hospitals, a number of which are in Hartford. In addition, many students choose to volunteer and engage in numerous community service activities in Hartford.
Relocation of the medical school to the city might encourage students to move to Hartford. If students became a true part of the community, we would be even better suited to care for and address the specific needs of Hartford residents. We also would be closer to patients whose circumstances make it difficult to travel all the way to Farmington for medical care.
Current students tend to choose housing in surrounding suburbs, even though Hartford is very close to our Farmington campus and is generally a less expensive place to live. Creating medical student housing communities in Hartford, potentially subsidized or provided by the medical school, could be a way to encourage more students to live in the city in addition to working there.
As a "local girl," I agree with Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra that we should promote Connecticut's homegrown talent. Because of our state funding, a majority of each medical class must be Connecticut residents. In spite of this, however, we are losing our graduates to other states. Residency training location influences practice location. Despite having more than 600 residents training in Greater Hartford, many of these excellent physicians are leaving.
Connecticut is an extremely expensive place in which to practice. Malpractice insurance reform is just one important step toward encouraging more physicians to stay here. Loan repayment programs, such as those that exist in Massachusetts, are vital and serve not only to retain physicians in their home state, but also help students interested in primary care fields where lower pay creates financial strain.
Regardless of the location of the medical school, it is important that as a state we work together to address our health care needs. Medical schools across the country are examining ways to increase class size to meet a nationwide physician shortage. Particular attention is being taken to address the shortage of primary care physicians. Expansion of our current facilities would be a necessary step in this direction, and state and local support is vital.
UConn, as our state medical school, should rise to this challenge and provide Connecticut with the physicians it needs and the environment that will keep them here.
Jennifer Mastrocola, 26, lives in Rocky Hill.
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