Posts Tagged ‘American Association of Medical Colleges’

Michelle Obama “Joining Forces” With Med Schools to Treat Wounded Warriors

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Two medical education groups and 130 medical schools signed on to First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative to “train the nation’s physicians to meet the unique healthcare needs of the military and veterans’ communities,” the White House announced recently.  The schools pledged to do in-depth research into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and to teach medical students and physicians to “better diagnose and treat our veterans and military families,” according to the announcement.  “By directing some of our brightest minds, our most cutting-edge research, and our finest teaching institutions toward our military families, they’re ensuring that those who have served our country receive the first-rate care that they have earned,” Obama said.

Speaking at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), Obama said that the American Association of Medical Colleges and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine have pledged to devote research, education and clinical care to address military service members’ crucial healthcare needs.

The initiative is part of the Joining Forces campaign, an effort by the first lady and Dr. Jill Biden that focuses on issues that affect veterans and their families.  Obama cited some examples already are underway at universities, including VCU, which has undertaken a project to provide resources and training to healthcare providers, volunteers and community members across Virginia to help veterans.  Similarly, University of Pittsburgh researchers are developing a new imaging tool that lets physicians see high-definition views of the brain’s wiring. This can help diagnose a TBI. And the University of South Florida is working with the VA and the Department of Defense to create a Center for Veterans Reintegration – a research, treatment and education center for veterans and their families.

“Today the nation’s medical colleges are committing to create a new generation of doctors, medical schools and research facilities to make sure our heroes receive the care worthy of their military service,” Obama said. The idea behind Joining Forces is extremely simple, Obama said. “In a time of war, when our troops and their families are sacrificing so much, we all should be doing everything we can to serve them as well as they are serving this country,” she added. “It’s an obligation that extends to every single American. And, it’s an obligation that does not end when a war ends and troops return home. In many ways, that’s when it begins.”

Mrs. Obama said she became aware of this when she and President Barack Obama welcomed the final troops home from Iraq last month. “I couldn’t shake the feeling that even though we were marking the end of the war, this was not an ending for them.  For our troops, the end of war marks the beginning of a very long period of transition,” she said. Frequently, the transitions from war to home “bring the hardest moments our troops and their families will ever face,” she added.

It is estimated that one in six of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans come home with post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, and at least 4,000 have had at least a moderate-grade brain injury, Mrs. Obama said, noting that many avoid seeking help because of what they perceive as a stigma.  “I want to be very clear today: these mental health challenges are not a sign of weakness,” she said. “They should never again be a source of shame. They are a natural reaction to the challenges of war, and it has been that way throughout the ages.”

Obama thanked the troops and their families for their service, and noted that anyone experiencing mental health difficulties should not be ashamed.  “Seek help, don’t bury it,” she said. “Asking for help is a sign of strength.”  The Pentagon estimates that nearly 213,000 military personnel have suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2000.

A previous report by the Rand Corp. think tank estimated that 300,000 veterans of both conflicts suffered PTSD or major depression.  Less than 50 percent had sought treatment for PTSD over the previous year and approximately 60 percent of those reporting a probable brain injury had not been evaluated by a physician for one.  “This is a long-term issue for the nation,” said Brad Cooper, the executive director of Joining Forces.

“Those of us who have never experienced war will never be able to fully understand the true emotional costs,” Mrs. Obama said. “PTSD, TBI, depression and any other combat-related mental health issue should never again be a source of shame.”

Although the military has strong support systems and personnel trained in combat-related mental health issues, more than half of veterans seek treatment in their hometowns, outside the military and the Department of Veterans Affairs, Mrs. Obama said. The new initiative aims at assuring that all civilian physicians have access to information on those issues.

“Everyone is stepping up,” Mrs. Obama said while praising the ongoing work of researchers at the colleges involved in the initiative.  She said the will to help veterans is strong and goes beyond Veterans Day parades and rallies on Fort Bragg.  Obama said the “hidden wounds” faced by many veterans are the “most difficult struggle they will face.”  She said it was imperative for the nation’s physicians to understand the mental health challenges involved.  “Mere words and anecdotes don’t do any of this justice,” she said.

Medical School Enrollment on the Rise

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

More young Americans are deciding to become physicians during a tough jobs market, even though they tend not to choose the high-demand primary care.  American medical schools were pleased when they received a record number of applications in 2011.  Applicants increased by 1,178, or 2.8 percent, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).  Fully 43,919 men and women applied to U.S. medical schools this year, including 32,654 first-time applicants, according to the Washington, D.C.-based AAMC.  First-year enrollment increased by three percent to 19,230, a rise of 18,665 when compared with 2010.

A vital highlight is the larger number of African-American applicants, following a 0.2 percent decline in 2010.  Those numbers grew by 4.7 percent to 3,640 in 2011, while enrollees rose by 1.9 percent to 1,375.  The number of Hispanic/Latino applicants also grew by 5.7 percent to 3,459, with enrollment rising by 6.1 percent to 1,633.  Asians comprised 22.7 percent of the total applicant pool; applicants who identified themselves as white made up 62.3 percent of the total.

Meanwhile, first-time female applicants grew 3.3 percent to 15,953, while female enrollment increased by 3.2 percent to 9,037.  The number of first-time male applicants increased by 1.9 percent for a total of 16,698 applications with 10,193 enrollees, a 2.9 percent increase when compared with 2010.  AAMC said medical schools attract well-qualified applicants, noting their academic profiles included an average grade-point average of 3.5 and an MCAT score of 29.

“We are very pleased that medicine continues to be an attractive career choice at a time when our healthcare system faces many challenges, including a growing need for doctors coupled with a serious physician shortage in the near future,” said Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., AAMC president and CEO.  “At the same time the number of applicants is on the rise, we also are encouraged that the pool of medical school applicants and enrollees continues to be more diverse.  This diversity will be important as these new doctors go out into communities across the country to meet the health care needs of all Americans.

“U.S. medical schools have been responding to the nation’s health challenges by finding ways not only to select the right individuals for medicine, but also to educate and train more doctors for the future.  However, to increase the nation’s supply of physicians, the number of residency training positions at teaching hospitals must also increase to accommodate the growth in the number of students in U.S. medical schools.  We are very concerned that proposals to decrease federal support of graduate medical education will exacerbate the physician shortage, which is expected to reach 90,000 by 2020,” Kirch said.

Wait a minute!  The Council on Physician and Nurse Supply disagrees, noting that the U.S. will be short 200,000 physicians by 2020. “According to recent data, physician demand seems to be a real crisis,” said Onyx M.D. CEO and Chairman Robert Moghim, M.D.  “Not only is the overall physician shortage a major problem but certain specialties will be hit harder than others, especially primary-care specialists.”

In fact, the AMA announced that the number of primary-care physicians (PCPs) could decrease by 35,000 to 40,000 by 2025.  Apparently PCPs are becoming increasingly frustrated in many areas of their practice.  “Dealing with third-party payers, governmental red tape, slowness in receiving reimbursement and increased time spent with non-clinical paperwork seems to be driving this discontent,” said Monty McKentry, VP of Client Services & Recruitment at Onyx M.D.  He notes that, “These factors may be the cause of the newly reported data from the Journal of the American Medical Association that only two percent of current medical students intend to go into primary care.”

To make this situation even worse, there is a growing concern that one new physician entering the work force may not equal the productivity of a retiring physician.  This can be attributed to a cultural shift to a better work-life balance, shorter working hours and increased demand for more part-time work.  With the anticipated shortage in primary-care physicians, demand will increase for short-term coverage or locum tenens (a place-holder).  “We anticipate a wide variety of new opportunities as primary care physicians look for other alternatives such as locum tenens, Moghim said.”

Finally, Kirch highlighted programs that provide scholarships and loan forgiveness in exchange for working as general practitioners in the nation’s underserved areas.  According to Kirch, more funding is needed for these programs, and payments to primary-care physicians for services should be increased.