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Retiring dean tells what drives demand for CHP grads

Retiring dean tells what drives demand for CHP grads

Syracuse, N.Y.-- Two things help explain why the graduates of Upstate’s College of Health Professions will be in high demand for the foreseeable future, according to Hugh Bonner, PhD.

An aging population and the Affordable Care Act both ensure a healthy job market for the physical, radiation and respiratory therapists, the physician assistants and all others with CHP degrees, says Bonner, who is retiring after 20 years as dean of the college.

“Between 2000 and 2030, we will double the population of those 65 and older. We’ll go from essentially 35 million to 70 million people. That population also has a large number of individuals with chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes,” Bonner said in a recent interview for Upstate’s “HealthLink on Air” radio show.

Of that population, about 82 percent, or 54 million people, have a chronic condition, and that accounts for at least eight trips to their physician or health care provider, he said.

Within that over-65 population, there are also about 14 million people that have five or more chronic conditions. “You can see that their demand is going to be huge,” he said.

The CHP-trained professionals will likely be members of teams that treat those patients, he said. “All of our graduates get jobs in their professions. They pass state and national exams. They’re in huge demand because they are so well educated.”

Adding to the need for more health professionals is the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, Bonner said. From 2013 to 2014, about 10 million uninsured people got health insurance, adding more demands on the health care system, and that number is expected to grow.

“So when you take the aging population and the greater insured population, there are going to be a large number of individuals that are going to have to come into the system, and who can take care of them better? Who will run the X-rays, and who’s going to do the laboratory tests?

“In the U.S., we do approximately 10 billion laboratory tests annually, which are used to provide somewhere between 70 and 80 percent of all medical diagnoses and follow-up decisions for patient care,” Bonner noted.

The demand for medical care has fueled the growth of the midlevel practitioners, he said, such as doctor of physical therapy students, who are able to address the needs of patients directly, as well as PAs.

Looking down the road, Bonner sees the CHP’s challenges as getting enough people into the field to meet the demand and finding enough faculty, especially as many reach retirement age.

In the future, “I think you’ll be having a lot more of the highly educated professionals taking over the initial treatments as they come in and knowing when to refer patients to a specialist. OtherwIse, we will not be able to address the health care needs of America,” he said.

Bonner establishes Student Emergency Fund

Among Hugh Bonner’s proudest achievements was the establishment of the Dean Hugh W. and Lynnette Bonner Student Emergency Aid Endowment for the College of Health Professions, which provides grants to help tide students over in a disaster.

“If we can give them $500 or $1,000, they don’t drop out. We’ve been able to do some really great things,” he said of the fund, which he personally funded at the start and which will continue with contributions from individuals as well as an anonymous endowment and matching funds from the Upstate Foundation. Among those the fund helped were a foreign student whose family couldn’t send him money for a few months (he was provided with a meal card) and another student whose family home burned down.

Bonner also leaves a legacy of working for continued increases in professionalism and licensure requirements, serving on numerous professional boards, trying to help meet the needs of underserved rural areas and receiving the top honor from the Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions.

The Bonners will settle in Rome, Ga., where they will be near their daughter¿s family and closer to their two sons¿ families in Dallas.