Full Funding in Limbo as MU Clinical Program for Springfield Moves Forward

Feb 18, 2015

Credit CoxHealth

Third year clinical students from the University of Missouri School of Medicine will be able to observe doctors in Springfield as early as 2016 if funding comes to fruition.

The long-awaited program hit a roadblock last year, after Gov. Jay Nixon withheld the program’s $10 million appropriation as part of an even larger withhold.

But this month, Nixon pledged to restore $4.68 million to the program following a national settlement with credit ratings agency Standard and Poor’s. That means officials can at least continue planning for the program, which already includes a slightly expanded class size.

“We will now continue that expanded class of eight, but we can’t go to the full class expanding by 32 until we have all the infrastructure in place,” Webb said.

Weldon Webb is the associate dean for the Springfield Clinical Campus integration.

Credit Mercy Springfield

He says talks for the program began seven years ago, and stemmed from the need for more physicians in the state. But MU doesn’t have the space in Columbia for more students in the clinical arena, Webb says. Instead, class sizes will expand by one-third, or 32 per class, and students will then spend their clinical years – third and fourth – observing doctors from both CoxHealth and Mercy in Springfield.

In 2013, Gov. Jay Nixon, along with officials from MU and Missouri State University, signed a resolution pledging to help both schools with its clinical initiatives.

“It’s a much more cost efficient way of doing that," Webb says. "If you build new medical schools and new clinical space to accommodate them, you’re looking at probably $500 million minimum to do that.”

But by partnering with the two Springfield hospitals, MU officials put the program’s annual price tag at $10 million for faculty and staff salaries, training materials and other educational resources.

The University of Missouri has worked with Cox and Mercy outside of Springfield through its Rural Track program since 2002.

Webb notes that officials can’t run an academic program not knowing if they’ll have the money needed to sustain it. It’s their hope that the remaining $5 million plus will soon be released, as well as the full $10 million appropriation for fiscal year 2016.

If that funding comes together, Webb says students can begin observing at Springfield in summer 2016, during their third year of the program.

“And that would probably be 8-12 students. And then eventually when we fully ramp up, which would probably be July of ’18 or ’19, there would be 32 students show up – let’s say in July of ’18 – and then another 32 show up in July of ’19. So that would give you the full complement of 64 students in Springfield.”

Webb, who is nearing retirement, also looks forward to recruiting a new, permanent associate dean for Springfield to tend to the program, should the funding come through.

Scott Holste, a spokesman for Gov. Nixon’s office, said in a statement to KSMU, “The Governor and his administration will continue to monitor state revenue throughout the year and make those budget decisions based on the funds available.”

Last week we also told you about how Nixon’s announcement to release funds on the heels of the S&P settlement also includes more dollars for Missouri State University's occupational therapy program.

Follow Scott Harvey on Twitter: @scottksmu