Hundreds of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals from the University of Mississippi Medical Center are about to enter the workforce. As MPB's Paul Boger reports efforts are underway to keep these skilled graduates here in the state.
More than 850 Mississippians received degrees from the University of Mississippi Medical Center in medicine, nursing, dentistry and other health related fields last Friday. The graduating class marked the largest in school history. Jack Mazurak is a spokesperson for UMMC.
"A lot of the schools have grown." said Mazurak. "The School of Nursing is up over 70 percent, and a lot of that is to due with an online [degree] program. [It] moves R.N.s to B.S.N.s. So if you're an R.N. you can get you're bachelor's degree. Another reason is we've been expanding our School of Medicine classes every year for nearly the part decade."
Despite the increase in graduates, Mississippi still has the lowest doctor to patient ratio in the nation. And when coupled with the fact that it also has some of the highest levels of obesity and diabetes in the country, many are concerned that the doctor shortage is becoming critical. Doctor James Keeton is the Dean of the School of Medicine at UMMC. He says there are initiatives in place to keep many of the those new doctors here in the Magnolia state.
"For instance in the School of Dentistry and the School of Medicine and Nursing, we take only Mississippians." said Keeton. "They may go to other schools for undergraduate work, but they are Mississippians. We're the fifth best in the nation of retaining our medical students to practice in Mississippi. We're working hard to keep Mississippians in Mississippi."
Try as they might, more than half of the schools new doctors will go out of state to complete their residency. Matthew Foster from Clinton earned his degree in dentistry.
"I'm going to be moving to Kansas City, Missouri, to start an oral surgery residency, and I'll be there for about six years." said Foster. "I may come back here, it'll just kind of depend on what opportunities present themselves then."
Officials with the school went on to say that because the state is so rural, it's hard to convince young doctors to set up shop in Mississippi.