Med school braces for $4 million cut

Published: May. 10, 2011 at 5:33 PM HST|Updated: May. 10, 2011 at 9:52 PM HST
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Students in class at UH medical school.
Students in class at UH medical school.

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine is facing a money emergency. In July it loses $4 million in state tobacco settlement funds because of funding cuts. Snuffing out the money means changes that will impact students.

"We anticipate that we'll have to come to the regents and ask that tuition continue to creep up to help with this," JABSOM Dean Jerris Hedges said.

Tuition for in-state students is $29,000 a year. Some students think increases could decrease interest in the medical school.

"That's just a lot of a financial burden that they would have to carry and take out more loans and things like that," fourth-year medical student Brandon Au said.

Ninety percent of the school's 250 students are from Hawaii. Most receive financial aid and help from parents, who will have to make an even bigger sacrifice.

A recent report by the American Association of Medical Colleges said families of UH medical students earn less on average than families of students in any other medical school in the nation.

Growth and expansion plans for students in neighbor island communities like in Hilo could also be affected.

"We may have to slow those a little bit because we don't have the resources to invest in these programs," Hedges said.

That could have far-reaching effects on patients.

The med school tries to place medical students in places where they are needed most when they graduate and complete residency. The Big Island has a doctor shortage.

"I did a month of training in Hilo and asked a lot of the nurses and physicians there about the retention rates for physicians. They said it's pretty dismal," medical student Sara Grimes said.

To further deal with the cuts the school may increase the number of out-of-state students it accepts and redirect faculty away from the classroom into clinical practice to generate money for the medical college.

One thing is certain -- a lot of people will feel the pain.

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