Baton Rouge to get medical school branch of LSU

Dr. Steve Nelson, Dean, LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Medicine,  Show caption
Dr. Steve Nelson, Dean, LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Medicine,

“Could this be the first step to build a four-year branch campus? Depending on resources and other things it could expand to a four-year program.” Dr. Steve nelson, LSU-New Orleans Medical School Dean

LSU will establish a Baton Rouge branch campus of its School of Medicine in New Orleans, the dean of the medical school said Thursday.

It would be the first permanent medical school campus in Baton Rouge.

The Liaison Committee on Medical Education cleared the way for opening a branch of the LSU school that trains doctors. The committee is the nationally recognized accrediting authority for medical education programs leading to doctor of medicine degrees in the United States and Canada.

Branch status would bring students to Baton Rouge full-time for their third and fourth years of medical school. The phase-in begins in July with 32 future physicians arriving for their third year of medical school. Those students would stay here for their fourth year while a new group of third-year students arrive — doubling the student numbers in 2015.

“We could ramp up more after that,” LSU-New Orleans Medical School Dean Dr. Steve Nelson said. “Could this be the first step to build a four-year branch campus? Depending on resources and other things it could expand to a four-year program.”

The LSU medical school in New Orleans briefly moved to Baton Rouge after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. There was discussion at the time about moving the medical school to Baton Rouge but the decision eventually was made to return to New Orleans.

LSU expanded its affiliation with Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center on Essen Lane in Baton Rouge when the facilities owned by the Franciscan Missionaries took over the duties of the public LSU Earl K. Long Medical Center, which operated as a charity hospital. The LSU medical school based in New Orleans used “the Earl” for rotations, in which third- and fourth-year medical students accompany doctors for several weeks, as well as recent graduates, who as “residents” treat patients under supervision of physicians.

LSU Health Medical Education and Innovation Center also opened earlier this week on the Lake’s campus.

Nelson said the volume of patients and diversity of cases at the Lake would enrich educational experiences. “We now have a first-rate education facility and a world class hospital with over 700 patients and the latest in technology,” he said.

With students finishing medical school at the Lake facility, Nelson said the potential is high for them to go on to do their hands-on physician training, called residency, and then set up practice in Louisiana. “It helps to insure a pipeline of physicians,” he said.

Nelson said the education of medical school students currently includes a variety of clinical rotations at remote affiliated sites. “While these rotations enrich their clinical knowledge and experience, they also increase expenses for our students and their families.” Nelson said. Consolidating clinical rotations in Baton Rouge will help reduce transportation, meal, and other costs involved with “limited rotations to distant sites.”

LSU Health Sciences Center Chancellor Dr. Larry Hollier has said he eventually would like to see students complete all four years of medical school in Baton Rouge as part of a plan to produce more physicians.

“There’s a great deal of interest in Baton Rouge,” said Dr. Richard DiCarlo, who put together the branch campus application. If too many students apply, he said a lottery will be held for spots.

The main thing the accrediting agency considered in assessing LSU’s Baton Rouge campus application was whether the education to be provided in Baton Rouge is comparable to what students are getting in New Orleans, DiCarlo said. That hurdle was easily cleared because of all the resources, including strong faculty, available in the city to support the educational enterprise, he said.

The New Orleans medical school has 800 students today. The school gets about 3,000 applications for the 200 student spots that open every year.