Budget cuts limit residency programs at MSU, nationwide

As Congress sets out to begin cutting the nation’s deficit by more than a trillion dollars this week, looming slashes in medical education funding have experts at MSU and nationwide worrying for aspiring doctors.

Officials at MSU’s medical schools and national advocacy groups are concerned $60 million in proposed cuts to graduate medical education, or GME, funding would severely limit the opportunities for medical students once they graduate and begin preparing to practice in the field.

Although medical schools themselves — such as MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine and College of Human Medicine — will remain intact, the cuts would severely affect post-graduation residency programs necessary for graduates to get certified, medical education experts said.

“It’s a huge concern; it’s a concern for everybody,” said Carol Parker, director of Graduate Medical Education Inc., an organization that links MSU’s medical schools with local hospitals for training opportunities. “The cut is going to make it more challenging for hospitals to fund this position.”

The effects would be especially bad news for MSU as both colleges have been expanding to accommodate more students, Parker said.

A recent study conducted by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education found about 82 percent of organizations nationwide with residency programs would reduce the number of positions if the proposed cuts are passed. Michigan would lose between 25-35 percent of its residency and fellowship programs if the reductions are put in place, according to the study.

Although a commission formed by President Barack Obama has recommended $60 billion in cuts to GME funds during the next decade, members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction have declined to discuss what specific programs might be cut until next Wednesday, when they are required to propose cuts for Congress to approve.

“Nobody will be specific,” American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine President Stephen Shannon said. “We expect this certainly is an item under consideration.”

National media outlets have reported the Congressional committee has been tasked with cutting $1.2 trillion from the federal deficit during the next 10 years.

However, reports have said the committee might concede defeat early this week after working to cut costs for abot 10 weeks.

Shannon said the cuts could be particularly devastating as the need for physicians is continuing to expand with the aging population.

First-year medical student Hachem Hachem said residency programs are vital to the future of his and other medical students’ careers.

“The type of residency determines what you are going to be studying for the rest of your life,” Hachem said.

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