August 8, 2012
The importance and value of all the health professions, and the critical role they will play in the future of our nation, have never been on better display than in recent weeks.
No less than four major publications - The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Seattle Times, and the Chronicle of Higher Education - have published lengthy front-page articles in the past month about different facets of the Affordable Care Act and how it is expected to affect patients and the health care provider supply, especially in the area of primary care. Countless other news outlets have done the same.
The New York Times story leads off with an example from our own Inland Empire, noting that an additional 300,000 people in this area will have insurance coverage by 2014, but that there won’t be enough physicians to actually provide the care in a timely manner, since there aren’t enough to meet demand now. A story in Tuesday’s Chronicle of Higher Education dissected proposed federal legislation that would add 15,000 slots to graduate medical education, which has been capped since 1997.
Against this backdrop, Western University of Health Sciences this week is welcoming more than 1,000 new students in nine colleges, all of whom are demonstrating a commitment to the future of good health in the United States and around the world. They will learn to care compassionately and humanistically for their future patients; equally important, through our Interprofessional Education program (IPE), they will learn to work together as professionals to provide the most comprehensive care possible.
WesternU itself has evolved and grown over the past several years to better meet the demands we saw on the horizon. IPE was one such evolution; so are the individual centers - Eye, Dental, Medical, Foot & Ankle, Pharmacy, Travel Health, and the Western Diabetes Institute - that comprise the Patient Care Center. These centers are essential not only as clinical classrooms for tomorrow’s health professionals, but as community health-care resources and centers of research.
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of presiding over the second annual Convocation and White Coat ceremony for our COMP-Northwest campus in Lebanon, Oregon. Perhaps nowhere else is the connection between a community and the future of its health care more evident than in Lebanon, where doctors from the Northwest will be trained to one day serve in that region. It’s a bold and already successful endeavor that meets the health care supply-and-demand issue head-on, and is a model I expect other health professions institutions will soon follow.
That being said, meeting the true demand for health professionals over the next few years is impossible. The addition of literally millions of previously uninsured patients to the health-care system, while certainly a win for overall health in this country as a whole, will exacerbate existing shortages in the near term. Over time, I am confident these shortages will be alleviated by a fresh societal push to make health care our top priority, including expanding medical school enrollment and increasing Graduate Medical Education opportunities.
In the meantime, our mission - beyond providing the finest care possible to patients regardless of statistics, politics, and insurance - is to continue to be advocates for a culture of health care that ensures adequate and timely access; emphasizes collaborative care; and most of all, never forgets that at the center of it all is the patient.
As always, I welcome your feedback on this topic and any others as we discuss WesternU's Benchmarks of Value, and our plans. Please e-mail me with your thoughts at email@example.com, and feel free to share this message with your family and friends.
All the best,