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Big Medical Schools Luring Students, Draining Doctors From Small Towns

Big medical schools luring students, draining doctors from small towns

The battle to secure top medical students is just as fierce as the competition for students trying to get into top colleges and universities. Wealthy schools with deep pockets, often lodged in American population centers, have a lot to offer elite learners of today, top doctors of tomorrow. “We lose some of our best medical students because we can’t afford to award them needed scholarships.” Dr. Lisa Grill Dodson is the Founding and Sentry Dean for Medical College of Wisconsin-Central Wisconsin. “I’ve known students from rural areas, who have wanted to stay there, but they are lured away by schools who offer them hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships, and then they never return. Right now, we can’t compete with that.” While more than one-third of MCW’s recent class of medical residents has chosen to stay right here in Wisconsin on their way to becoming doctors, philanthropic support is crucial in helping keep them here.

Healthcare workers tend to stay where they go to school, so overall care thins out as student numbers dwindle. One recent, multi-million-dollar, investment for MCW students in Wisconsin is helping transform health care by pumping scholarship dollars into our outlying areas, more are needed. “People love the rural lifestyle here, but if they can’t make enough money to ever get out of debt…the future doesn’t look good for these communities,” says Dr. Ellen Schumann, a Wausau pediatrician and faculty member at MCW-Central Wisconsin. Investment in scholarships and medical education means a crucial lifeblood to Wisconsin healthcare. “We’ve got to keep students going into primary care and keep them in places like Central Wisconsin.” Dr. Schumann retired, but returned to teach medical students because the need to develop rural physicians is so great. One of six kids, she grew up in Middleton, Wis. She says she never would have made it through medical school without financial aid.

The reality for medical students is startling. A recent survey, cited by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), says one-in-four medical students can’t afford basic needs. “I was shocked to find out that so many of our medical students are actually going to food pantries to stay afloat!” Dr. Schumann points to a disturbing trend. It is not unheard of for students to experience food insecurity and homelessness while tirelessly working toward their medical degree.

Medical College of Wisconsin campuses in Central Wisconsin and Green Bay help blanket our state with the highest level of medical education and healthcare. Donor investment is essential in keeping the steady flow of crucial, life-supporting doctors, pharmacists, and others heading to our out-of-the-way communities, for generations.