Oregon doctors want more in-state students

Physicians say the medical school's tuition may be keeping Oregonians from entering the profession.

By Myrle Croasdale — Posted Dec. 20, 2004

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During the last 10 years family physician George Waldmann, MD, has noticed that more of the medical students doing clerkships with him are from out of state.

The observation took on added significance as Dr. Waldmann, past president of the Oregon Medical Assn., saw his state losing more physicians than it was gaining.

He did a little research and was appalled at what he found. Students from Oregon, who through the 1980s had made up almost 100% of the entering class of the state's only medical school, made up less than half of the class by 2004. At the same time, tuition for Oregon Health & Science University's School of Medicine rose to equal that of private medical colleges in the region.

In response, Dr. Waldmann and his OMA colleagues passed a resolution in November calling attention to these issues and opened a dialogue with medical school officials, who are now promising to create a task force to seek solutions. The Oregon physicians hope their initiative will do something to help keep the medical profession within the grasp of future Oregonians.

"If I had not been able to go in-state to medical school, I wouldn't have gone into medicine," said Dr. Waldmann, who came from a blue-collar family and was in his family's first generation to attend college.

While Dr. Waldmann acknowledged there is no direct link between where students attend medical school and where they end up practicing, he said it is one of several factors in the decision and that the more students and physicians from Oregon who train in the state, the more likely some of them will stay.

Annual tuition and fees for OHSU in 2004 were $26,061, compared to other public medical schools in the region, which ranged from $12,845 to $18,430, according to data from the Assn. of American Medical Colleges.

Joseph E. Robertson Jr., MD, dean of OHSU's medical school, said the school shared the same goals as OMA, but with state support sinking to $10 million a year, from $17 million in 2001, he was hard pressed to come up with an alternative to tuition hikes. The average state subsidy for western state schools is $48 million, according to Dr. Robertson.

He said the goal is to have 60% of OHSU's student body from Oregon; however, MD-MPH and MD-PhD programs draw from a national pool, making it harder to reach that goal. Also, he said, the state's population is very homogenous and to attract more minorities, often the school has to look out of state.

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