Proposed budget cuts threaten local doctor training program

Massive proposed state budget cuts are threatening a Springfield program that trains the next generation of doctors.

A partnership between local hospitals and the University of Missouri started last year and is already on the chopping block.

University of Missouri System President Mun Choi stopped in Springfield to talk with local partners.

"To grow our research, education, and outreach programs," Choi said.

Some of those partners are CoxHealth and Mercy, which join with MU to provide local training to medical students through the Springfield Clinical Campus of the University of Missouri's School of Medicine.

"Nine medical students will graduate next year as the first class of student that have benefited from this partnership," Choi said.

While the new program is just getting started, it's possible that a huge budget cut is on the horizon.

"Currently, we believe it is going to affect it," Choi said.

Choi says it takes $10 million to run the medical clinic program, but, right now, the proposed state budget only provides half of that amount.

"So, we are going to request support for this program from the legislature for this program because it is that important," Choi said.

Local medical leaders agree that it's important to train doctors here to, hopefully, keep doctors here.

"It's also great for them just to be exposed to Southwest Missouri because from a recruitment standpoint, it can be difficult at times to attract people here. But, once you're here and you live here, it's really hard to leave," CoxHealth Recruitment and Retention Director Celeste Cramer said.

Cramer says as more doctors are retiring, it's time to fill the growing need for physicians here in the Ozarks.

"We definitely need to be proactive in our recruiting and growing of talent," Cramer said.

Choi says the goal is to get to 128 full time medical students enrolled in the program, however the extent of that growth depends on how much funding is awarded in the final budget.