Upstate News

June 17, 2010
Doretta Royer 315 464-4833

Upstate will study feasibility of opening branch campuses in North Country, Mohawk Valley

UpstateMap_detailSYRACUSE, N.Y. — New York state lawmakers have approved legislation directing Upstate Medical University President David R. Smith, M.D., to study the feasibility of opening branch campuses of the university to serve the Fort Drum/Watertown and Mohawk Valley regions of the state. Findings from the study would be reported to the governor, the Legislature and the SUNY Board of Trustees no later than Jan. 2, 2011.

The branch campuses would allow the university to expand its regional reach to an area that constitutes approximately one-third of New York’s landmass. The branch campuses would position the university as a leader in producing, attracting and retaining medical, health, and nursing professionals to dozens of rural communities that are experiencing workforce shortages in these fields.

“Our goal is to make sure that people who live in rural communities have the same access to healthcare as those who live in or near cities,” said Smith, who cited a recent Center for Health Workforce Studies report that showed physician supply lagging significantly in rural areas.

“To accomplish this, we need to offer on-site training programs for students who live in these communities and who are interested in becoming doctors, nurses or health professionals, with the hopes that they would remain in their communities to practice their profession,” Smith said. “We also need to collaborate with the leadership in rural communities to complement their services and to find new ways to attract and retain doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals to their communities.”
Smith thanked Upstate’s local legislative delegation for its leadership and support of the legislation.

The branch campuses would be modeled after the cooperative extension pioneered by Land Grant Colleges and Universities, including Cornell University, and will include all four of Upstate’s colleges: Medicine, Nursing, Graduate Studies and Health Professionals. The branch offices would provide a ready supply of professionals to rural locations, including medical graduates, physician assistants and nurse practitioners, specializing in family mental health and life the clinical profile of the communities.

Upstate recently launched its own “regional extension” initiative to meet healthcare and medical workforce needs. This initiative includes: providing medical care and access for patients; educating students; developing degree programs that respond to state needs; increasing the student body, especially the percentage from New York state, and offering continuing education for doctors, nurses and other health professionals in Central and Northern New York, and the Southern Tier.

Upstate already occupies a small footprint in the region. Its Binghamton Campus has been training 80 third and fourth year medical students each year since the 1970s. Upstate’s Department of Family Medicine is on the cusp of enhancing its Rural Medical program that places medical students into outlying communities for a real-time, up-close experience with regional hospitals and physician preceptors. An Upstate branch in the Fort Drum/Watertown area can be directly linked to the two-year programs currently offered at Jefferson Community College.

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