- Associated Press - Thursday, August 7, 2014

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) - Officials say LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans is considering offering a three-year medical school program in Lafayette to produce more new doctors for the state.

The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/1pdtfgj ) the school’s chancellor, Dr. Larry Hollier, was in Lafayette on Wednesday at the request of City-Parish President Joey Durel to discuss the feasibility of offering medical school training in Lafayette.

Some LSU medical school students interested in practicing as primary care physicians in rural areas currently spend the final two of their four years of education in Lafayette.

Hollier said LSU is considering condensing the four-year instruction and training program into three years in Lafayette and expanding capacity from 20 medical school students to 40.

“We believe that we could consolidate the curriculum to give them the entire curriculum in three years and they’d be ready to start a primary care residency,” Hollier said in a phone interview after his meeting with Durel and other local officials, hospital executives and doctors.

Hollier said three-year programs aren’t unusual and LSU has been exploring the option.

“We’re interested in whatever we can do to increase the health care workforce in this state,” Hollier said.

Durel said he organized the meeting after reading one of state Treasurer John Kennedy’s pitches for a medical school for Lafayette in a newspaper and because it’s been discussed in community circles for years.

“I thought we can talk forever, but at some point, we have to elevate this conversation,” Durel said. “I called Dr. Hollier and asked if he would mind coming to talk about what the possibilities, realities and impediments would be.”

Durel said the focus isn’t necessarily to open a new medical school, but rather to provide another training option in Lafayette to medical students.

“When you talk about the state’s budget and colleges getting less and less money and you talk about a new school, it sounds more threatening,” Durel said. “While we have the word school attached to it, it’s more of a change in programming.”

Kennedy attended Wednesday’s meeting and said a new medical school in Lafayette is needed to address the state’s physician shortage.

The issue is complicated by the number of retiring physicians because not enough new doctors choose to stay in Louisiana, he said.

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Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com