The nation's second-largest hospital network and second largest university have collaborated to significantly boost the number of residency slots in hospitals across the sunshine state, particularly in Orlando, Gainesville and Ocala.
In 2013, Hospital Corporation of America (NYSE: HCA) and the University of Central Florida (UCF) College of Medicine established an internal medicine residency program with the Orlando VA and Osceola Regional medical centers. Last fall, the two institutions announced a major expansion of their partnership to create new residencies - initially internal medicine, family medicine, OB/GYN - that will help alleviate the physician shortage in Florida.
"We simply don't have enough residency slots nationwide for the number of medical school graduates each year," said Deborah German, MD, UCF's vice president for medical affairs and founding dean of the College of Medicine. "Even though 97 percent of UCF's medical school graduates find residencies, many qualified students do not, simply because there aren't enough spots."
After last year's residency match, more than 600 U.S. medical school seniors were left without residency positions, and unable to practice medicine after graduating with their medical degrees.
"We know that where a resident completes his or her program is usually where they decide to stay and work," German said. "We're eager to partner with hospitals across our community and state to attract and retain more excellent doctors for Florida residents."
UCF President John C. Hitt pointed out the school's agreement with HCA "shows how our students, community and state benefit from the power of partnerships. Together, we'll produce more well-trained physicians who will care for patients in Central Florida and throughout our state."
Michael Joyce, FACHE, president of HCA's North Florida Division, agreed. "As part of the nation's largest hospital network, HCA's North Florida Division brings significant resources and a dedicated commitment to meeting Florida's critical need for physicians by expanding access to medical residency programs," he pointed out. "We're honored to partner with UCF to provide outstanding training and mentorship that will prepare the next generation of physicians to deliver the highest quality of patient care."
The first step in the new effort will involve operating four existing HCA residencies under the consortium and seeking any necessary re-accreditation from the national Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). The agreement won't change any existing HCA or UCF partnerships. UCF currently operates the Osceola Regional residency in partnership with HCA and the Orlando VA Medical Center.
The two parties have pledged to continue working together to bring more residencies to Florida, and plan to establish new residency and fellowship training programs over the next five years that could bring total enrollment to nearly 600 residents and fellows and graduate up to 150 physicians a year. This move marks HCA North Florida's largest academic partnership.
The number of residencies hasn't kept pace with Florida's growing population and its increasing number of medical schools. In a nationwide comparison, Florida ranks 42 of 50 states in the availability of residents per 100,000 people.
Last year, state lawmakers reviewed a study that showed an anticipated shortage of 7,000 specialists over the next decade in Florida, primarily in psychiatry, general surgery, thoracic surgery and rheumatology. They created 422 new residency slots under the Governor's State Medicaid Residency Program and the legislature's new Graduate Medical Education Startup Bonus Program, increasing the number of residency slots in Florida to nearly 4,400. The bonus program provides participating hospitals a one-time $100,000 bonus for each new residency slot created in specialty areas with a shortage.
The HCA-UCF partnership may later add residency spots in psychiatry, emergency medicine, general surgery, and anesthesiology specialties.
Orlando Health CEO David Strong said innovative partnerships can help Florida create more residencies, especially those in high demand specialties.
"We're excited about the common work we do to make Florida and our region a national leader in graduate medical education," he said. "Orlando Health has been and will continue to be an advocate and leader in graduate medical education."
Former Florida Hospital CEO Lars Houmann said that since its inception, one of the most important goals of the UCF College of Medicine has been to increase the number of physicians in the state.
"Residencies are a vital part of the formula of training and retaining high-quality physicians," he said, noting that Adventist Health, parent of Florida Hospital, "is pleased to see progress toward that objective."
Tim Liezert, director of the Orlando VA Medical Center, said his hospital's two-year-old internal medicine residency with the medical school and HCA's Osceola Regional Medical Center has provided great benefits to physicians-in-training and patients.
"We're eager to create more collaborations like these for our veterans and the community at large," he emphasized.