Unity Tour Focuses on Health Care
Contact: Jeff Murphy
Missouri’s two-year- and four-year public colleges and universities are supporting a collaborative plan that would provide an annual state appropriation of $38 million to help increase the number of health professional graduates.
That was the message presented Monday, Nov. 26, by University of Missouri Interim President Gordon Lamb and UCM President Aaron Podolefsky. The two higher education leaders spoke about the joint “Preparing to Care” proposal to a group of about 50 people – including members of area communities, Whiteman Air Force Base, legislators and the media - who attended a luncheon in the Elliott Union.
Lamb’s stop in Warrensburg was part of the 2007 University Unity Tour, during which he is meeting with Missouri’s higher education leaders on their campuses to talk about issues affecting colleges and universities, including teaching, service and accountability.
Lamb said the “Preparing to Care” proposal provides funds that are needed to increase the number of new graduates in health-related fields by 20 percent. This means about 900 additional health care professionals annually, including 31 more physicians, 30 pharmacists, 489 nurses and 288 allied health professionals, such as respiratory therapists and physical therapists.
“Missouri needs to do more,” he said in talking about the current level of state support going toward the education of students who plan to work in health care professions. “Other states are stepping up. Missouri must consider this investment. It is an investment by Missourians in Missourians.”
Lamb said public higher education wants to increase human capital to meet critical health care needs. He pointed out that almost 95 percent of Missouri counties are currently underserved by physicians, and at least 93 percent of the Missouri counties are considered dental shortage areas. It is also predicted that there will be a 20 percent shortage of nurses by the year 2015, and a critical shortage of some 700 pharmacists before 2012.
The funding proposal will be sent to the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education for Fiscal Year 2009. It must gain legislative approval, before it can take effect. Of the total funds sought, about $32 million would go to four-year institutions and two-year institutions would receive the rest.
Podolefsky said, if approved by the legislature, it would mean about $1.16 million for UCM. The funds would go toward classroom upgrades, equipment, and faculty in programs such as nursing, rural family nursing, communication disorders, and medical technology. The university currently has 643 students enrolled in these areas. It hopes to “expand the pipeline” for producing graduates by as much as 35 per year in these health care professions.
“We at UCM are up to the challenge,” he said, adding that the professional licensure rates for UCM graduates in these existing programs are 100 percent.
“We’re ready. If we have the capacity, we can do the job,” he told the gathering.
Lamb has also scheduled University Unity Tour sessions with his public higher education counterparts at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph; Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville; Truman State University in Kirksville; and on the four University of Missouri campuses, in Columbia, Kansas City, Rolla and St. Louis. The first University Unity event was held earlier this fall at Missouri State University in Springfield.