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Stephens Memorial Hospital Partners With Tufts University School of Medicine & Maine Medical Center to Become Maine's First Rural Teaching Site

Western Maine Health announced today that Stephens Memorial Hospital is the first rural hospital in Maine to partner with Boston's Tufts University School of Medicine and Maine Medical Center to become a teaching site for medical students.

The innovative partnership is aimed at addressing the severe shortage of physicians in Maine, a shortage heightened in rural areas. "This is a positive step to address the physician shortage that Maine and the nation is experiencing," said Timothy A. Churchill, president and chief executive officer of Western Maine Health.

As an indication of just how severe the physician shortage is, the Maine Recruitment Center at the Maine Hospital Association is currently trying to fill 272 vacant physician positions in Maine. Dr. William Medd, who serves on the Stephens Memorial Hospital and MaineHealth boards said, "The medical school relationship will be very helpful in attracting new doctors to our hospital and will provide a clinical environment for the students to learn about providing high-quality medical care to our community."

Past efforts to address the physician shortage have included a partnership with The Maine Practice Network to host students, on a short-term basis, for specific clinical rotations with physicians. This new partnership with Maine Medical Center and Tufts will take Stephens Memorial's involvement with medical students to a higher level by teaching the students and showing them what it is like to practice in a rural area.

Gregory Hardy, M.D., community hospital coordinator, stated "It is a great honor and an awesome responsibility to be selected as the rural pilot site. For our medical staff, hospital and community to be involved with teaching the doctors of the future is more than exciting. It is vital to improving health care in the great state of Maine. We will strive to make this a model for success that others may follow."

The students will spend their first two years at Tufts in Boston with rotations in Maine, then transition to Maine Medical Center for their third year of medical school. During this third year, students training at Stephens Memorial Hospital will live and learn in the Oxford Hills area, with Stephens Memorial Hospital providing housing. The curriculum will focus on rural and small-town practice.

"We're extremely pleased to have Stephens Memorial commit to this program as the first rural teaching site," stated Peter Bates, MD, interim dean of the Maine Medical Center/Tufts University School of Medicine Medical Education Program. "This commitment speaks well of the high-quality physicians, teaching faculty, and dedicated administration focused on providing a superior education experience," said Bates, who added, "Stephens Memorial is a great model for the program and may serve as an example for other rural hospitals in Maine."

The MMC.TUSM class of 36 students is almost full. Students studying in Maine will receive preference for 20 of the 36 seats, seats that are especially attractive because it is anticipated that students will receive a 50 percent reduction in tuition. Considering that most physicians come out of residency programs with more than $250,000 in medical school loans, the tuition reduction will likely be a strong incentive for students.

The program starts during the summer of 2011, with preceptor sessions in August, 2009, and spring, 2010, at Stephens Memorial Hospital. Graduating physicians will receive a combined diploma from Maine Medical Center and Tufts.

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