Brody to push ahead with plans to expand medical school class sizes

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Following the passage of the new state budget, Brody School of Medicine officials are encouraged by the emphasis state lawmakers are putting on expanding medical education in the state.

Brody will continue to receive $8 million a year to help cover the cost of training and teaching future doctors. But, that money doesn’t cover the cost needed to fulfill one of the biggest future goals of the school — expanding class sizes.

“There are not enough physicians today to take care of our population, and that will only get worse in the years ahead,” said Interim Dean Dr. Nicholas Benson.

Benson said the school remains committed to moving towards growing class sizes. This year, they will add one or two additional spots, bringing the total size up to 82 students.

“That increase, that very minimal increase, is not going to be able to really make a positive impact on the healthcare of people across the state,” Benson said.

To make that bigger impact, Benson said classes must be expanded much further. The goal for Brody is to have classes expand from the current 80 students a year, to 120 students.

Benson said he was encouraged to see the General Assembly set aside $1 million for UNC’s Medical School to expand their current facility.

In order to expand Brody’s class sizes, Benson said they would need to hire additional instructors, and also construct a new building, which would cost millions of dollars and take years to complete.

Another obstacle to overcome is the lack of residency and fellowship spots in the East.

“We’re lagging behind because we’re younger,” said Dr. Herb Garrison, the Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education.

Whereas medical schools at Duke and UNC have between 750 and 1,000 residency and fellowship spots, Greenville only has around 400. Garrison said you can’t bring on more students until you have a place for them to train following graduation.

He wants to expand the number of spots in the East for one simple reason.

“You’re more likely to stay where you train, so that’s why keeping them here is more likely,” he said.

Improving access to care in the East is one of the big driving factors in wanting to expand in the first place. Garrison was excited that in the new budget, the General Assembly allotted money to expand residency programs in rural areas.

“If you train in a rural areas for two years, you get to know the community and you become part of the community, you’re more likely to stay in that community and that’s what we really want to see,” he said.

Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Pitt) said he requested and additional $2.5 million for Brody in the new budget to help cover planning cost for an expansion. However, that money was not put in to the finalized budget.

Benson said local fundraising efforts to start getting money in line for a new building have already begun. He hopes to continue receiving support from the state moving forward.

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