I would like to address recent comments by Dr. Frank Opelka, LSU vice president for health care and medical education, as quoted in a recent Advocate article, “LSU plans include private clinics.”
Dr. Opelka’s comments are too clever by half. He would have us believe that training residents and medical students in a university-based hospital setting is “old world,” and LSU’s plan for post-graduate training using privately owned hospitals and clinics is some new and exciting paradigm.
I would first remind Dr. Opelka that the U in LSU stands for “University,” and that it will be nearly impossible for LSU to train 800 residents and 2,000 medical students by farming them out to private hospitals. I would also tell him that university-based academic medical centers are a highly successful model of post-graduate medical training. University Hospital at LSU-Shreveport is a perfect example. Tulane and Ochsner are two other local (private) examples; the University of Alabama at Birmingham and MD Anderson in Houston are two regional ones. Vibrant economies surround these centers.
I would, however, not have to tell Dr. Opelka this, as he undoubtedly already knows it; having been trained in, and trained others in, academic medical centers from Chicago to Boston to New Orleans. Indeed, based on the Jindal administration’s policies (especially budgetary) over the last five years, Dr. Opelka should be telling us that this paradigm shift is not idealistic, but a necessary and unfortunate result of declining state revenue, and an unstated-but-obvious political philosophy that Louisiana should be getting out of the health-care delivery and medical education business.
What Dr. Opelka does not tell us is that even the governor believes in the university model. This administration has fought tooth-and-nail to design, fund, obtain land and prepare to build a new University Academic Medical Center in the central business district in New Orleans, even going so far as to sue FEMA for post-Katrina funding.
Dr. Opelka knows that Dr. Fred Cerise’s cautionary words have merit. The quality of exposure and experience varies widely at private medical clinics and private hospitals. Students have already made a choice between community- vs. academic-based education when they select which program at which to train. Moving your university model to a community-based model and calling it “new world” is misleading and wrong.
As Gov. Bobby Jindal allows the LSU Health Care Services Division to die on the vine, (including Earl K. Long Medical Center here in Baton Rouge), Dr. Opelka is now the mouthpiece of Jindal’s “privatize everything” philosophy with respect to medical education. Those students and residents, who chose LSU for its proud history of academic medical training, are left behind.
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