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EXCERPT: Continuum Article Explores Rigors of Medical Training


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Jun 29, 2010 1:00 AM

John Luke

Ramin Eskandari, M.D., a 4th year neurosurgery resident, and Cynthia Newberry, M.D., a recent graduate of the School of Medicine, are featured in a cover story of the current issue of Continuum magazine. To read the entire article about the rigors of medical training at the U, visit Continuum's Web site at or pick up a copy in newsstands across campus.

Steven Leitch

The article highlights Cynthia Newberry, M.D., who in the past four years was married, had two children, and then graduated from medical school in May. Newberry, pictured above with her family, begins her residency in anesthesiology at the U of U on June 24.

“Never marry a doctor.” That was the age-old wisdom of countless mothers whose hope for their daughters—and occasionally sons—included a spouse who didn’t spend most of his waking, and some of his sleeping, hours at work.

Today, the road to becoming a doctor is still grueling. And the educational demands are arguably more complex, thanks to the incredible rate at which medical knowledge is advancing. What students learn today might be out of date by the time they’re practicing, requiring them to not only stay on top of the medical literature but also to be able to make sophisticated judgment calls about when to introduce the latest and greatest treatment to their patients. A lifelong love of learning and a burning desire for knowledge may turn out to be the most important skills of the modern physician.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the competitiveness of medical school. For every one of the 82 seats at the U’s School of Medicine freshman class, there are more than 13 qualified applicants. Even a spectacular undergraduate career will not guarantee admittance. Successful candidates have done community service, worked in research labs, and found ways to gain experience interacting with patients. And then there are important character considerations. “A student who is not caring and compassionate will not be a good physician,” says David Bjorkman, M.D., dean of the University of Utah School of Medicine

Supplying a physician workforce for the state of Utah is Bjorkman’s other job—an especially daunting task given that Utah ranks an abysmal 47th out of 50 for the number of physicians per state population. While the national average is 235 physicians per 100,000 people, Utah has 165 per 100,000. Complicating matters is that last year, the medical school lost $10 million in annual federal funding, forcing reductions in class size from 102 to 82 students.

That’s why Bjorkman hopes that some of the U’s medical students will stick around and those who went to medical school out of state will think about returning to Utah for their residencies. “We know that the best indication of where a physician will practice, is where they do their terminal training,” says Bjorkman. “So we try to make each of our residency programs so stellar that they’ll attract the best and the brightest physicians to Utah.” Because even with the medical school at capacity and the U’s 690 intern, resident, and fellow positions filled, Bjorkman notes, we still won’t meet the physician workforce demands of the state.


To read the full article, please visit Continuum's Web site at or pick up a copy in newsstands across campus.

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