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New Medical School in Pennsylvania to be Announced

West Penn Allegheny Health System to embark on new medical school

With demand for doctors rising, West Penn Allegheny Health System will soon announce plans for a new medical school.

Although the health system has not filed a public application with the national group that accredits medical schools, state Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, said CEO Christopher Olivia has told a community collaborative that West Penn Allegheny has been in negotiations with the Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia for a year about establishing a four-year medical school in Pittsburgh.

The financially strapped health system, which recently reported a $22 million loss for the third quarter of the 2011 fiscal year, has been working to expand to a full medical school for nearly a decade, talking with various schools along the way.

West Penn Allegheny has long-standing teaching affiliations with both Temple and Drexel University, another Philadelphia medical school, as well as the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Pennsylvania is home to seven medical schools as well as two colleges of osteopathic medicine, all of which train physicians. Even so, the Pennsylvania Medical Society's 2011 State of Medicine Report identified the need to increase the number of physicians in the state as its top priority. The report identified physician shortages in family practice, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, general surgery, orthopedic surgery, radiology, cardiology, emergency medicine and pediatrics in a state in which about 25 percent of practicing physicians are older than 60.

The state's newest medical school, The Commonwealth Medical College in Scranton, opened in 2009, the same year the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine opened a teaching site at Seton Hill University in Greensburg.

"We did a survey of young physicians and asked them what attracts them to an area. And now we have data that Pennsylvania residents who train in Pennsylvania are more likely to stay in Pennsylvania," said Dr. Ralph Schmeltz, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society. "I've been involved in teaching medical students for a long time, and I'm not worried," Schmeltz said. "The pool of qualified applicants is so large compared to the spots available. The bigger question is: Who is going to teach them? It's great to have all these new medical schools opening, but the question is: Are we going to have adequate residencies to train physicians?"

From: Pittsburgh Live

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