Healthcare Business News

Regional News/South: Ochsner's Aussie edge

Partnership with Queensland sees first doc grads

By Paul Barr
Posted: March 16, 2013 - 12:01 am ET

A medical school partnership between Ochsner Health System and an Australian university has graduated its first nine students.

The program, called the University of Queensland School of Medicine Clinical School at Ochsner, has students spend the first two years of medical school at the University of Queensland in Brisbane and the final two years of clinical rotations at Oschsner in New Orleans. One of the goals is to help alleviate the shortage of physicians in the U.S. and Louisiana, said Dr. William Pinsky, executive vice president and chief academic officer at Ochsner.

The curriculum also has a lot of focus on primary care and rural primary care, which could draw students into that arena, Pinsky said.

The program has grown more quickly and at a lower cost than it would have had Ochsner decided to found a medical school from scratch, Pinsky said. “It would probably take 10 years to get to the volume of students we (have) now and cost $50 million,” he said.

After the initial class of nine, the school admitted a class of 30 in each of the next two years, then 84 last year, and in January accepted 104 students, Pinsky said.

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The two organizations were connected initially through the Association of American Medical Colleges. Pinksy said he was aware of Queensland's strong reputation in medical education, but through the AAMC learned of its interest in a global partnership. The school had the ability and desire to increase its class size for the first two years of school, while Ochsner was interested in increasing its clinical training. “There was a fair amount of serendipity involved,” he said.

An unexpected benefit has been the broadened perspective that students are getting as a result of spending two years in Australia, and Ochsner is drawing attention from non-U.S. students, he said. Administrators decided early on to give the students specialized educational assistance in preparing for the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination, which Queensland is not focused on, he said.

Jonathan Lu, one of the graduating students, said he was a little nervous about entering a new program, but “thought the experience was great.”

Another student grad, Katherine Weyer, said that being part of the inaugural class was a challenge at times—as anything new would be—but she appreciated learning about how the medical school system operates.

Overall, Weyer said, “It's been amazing.”

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