Why more medical students are coming to the Valley

PHOENIX - Dozens of new medical students will arrive in the Valley by next summer as medical schools predict a shortage in doctors.

Forty students will head to St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix to train by July 2012.

They're coming from the Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha.

Creighton University and St. Joseph's started an affiliation in an effort to build presence here in Phoenix.

Kristin Kwiatkowski, a third year medical student from Creighton University, is already training at St. Joseph's.

"(It's a good opportunity) to get to know different physicians and residents and make your decision on where you'd like to practice in the future," she said about working in a city that is roughly 1,300 miles away from campus.

Mark Hillard, Vice President of Graduate and Undergraduate Affairs with St. Joseph's Hospital, tells me the hope is to bring doctors here who will eventually move to the Valley permanently.

"Hopefully, fulfill the need for physicians," Hillard said. "We've interviewed 5,400 students and Creighton placed 150 so they're intelligent, bright people to join our community," he added.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) estimates a shortage of 130,600 doctors by 2025.

Even if students come here to practice, the challenge is still retention.

According to a 2008 study, by Arizona State University's Center for Health Information & Research, nearly one-third of physicians, licensed in Arizona, chose to practice out of state.

Kwiatkowski, who has lived in Phoenix before, says bringing Creighton students here from Omaha is a good way to introduce them to what Phoenix has to offer.

She has already decided that she wants to continue residency here.

"(I) intend to practice in Arizona, too," she added.

Hillard says there are other benefits to the partnership too.

"We believe the students keep the residents (and) attendings sharp and up to speed with the latest techniques," he said.

Dr. Sara Peña, Associate Medical Director with St. Joseph's Hospital Family Medicine Residency and Kwiatkowski's attending physician, says the hospital's academic program will improve patient care.

"You have to show living example to students as you're interacting with patients," she said. "Overall, it's going to reenergize the campus and make everyone more excited."

See the AAMC report

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