University of Kentucky President Hopes Program Would Keep Doctors In Western Kentucky

PADUCAH, Ky. (AP) - The University of Kentucky's medical school is looking to open branches in eastern and western Kentucky, with the goal of having more doctors in the state's rural areas.

The moves are contingent upon the General Assembly approving funding for the $1 million estimated startup costs at Morehead State University and Murray State University.

UK President Lee Todd announced the proposal Wednesday during a speech in Paducah. Todd said the moves, first at Morehead in 2008, then at Murray by 2012 if the program proves successful, would boost the size of the entering class at the medical school from 103 to 130.

Students would spend their first two years at the medical school in Lexington and their last two at one of the regional sites, Todd said. The students would focus on rural health care, an acute need in a state with an overall shortage of physicians, he said.

"We have a critical need in this state for more physicians, particularly in rural areas and in primary care and family practice, as well as medical and surgical specialties," Todd said. That means increasing the number of medical graduates and helping place them in areas of need."

A new health sciences building is under construction at Morehead State and St. Clair Regional Medical Center, which is working with the school on the project. The medical school classes would be held in the new facility, Todd said.

Murray State President Randy Dunn said the partnership will help boost recruiting at the school, where a third of the students major in subjects related to science, technology and engineering.

"This responds to the needs of the far west Kentucky region, and it builds upon a strength we already have," Dunn said. "We're strong in the placement of pre-professional students ... and this will do nothing except strengthen opportunities for our students."

The program also will require about $1 million in new construction at the University of Kentucky and another $1 million for the salaries of faculty and staff at Morehead State, Todd said.

"All of this is dependent on the legislature supporting us with the cost of these programs," said Dr. Jay Perman, dean of the UK College of Medicine. "Otherwise, they don't happen."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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