Our Views: More doctors in training

In the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, along with other institutions, the LSU medical school in New Orleans relocated to Baton Rouge. There was some angst at the time about whether the medical school might stay there, but talk of that kind of drastic move was not only offensive to shell-shocked New Orleanians but it involved intellectual and physical resources that the state did not have at hand.

What was discussed at the time — and in fact well in advance of Katrina’s arrival — was the concern about capacity of the LSU program in New Orleans and the patient base to support physician education. LSU’s Baton Rouge hospital and outpatient clinics were serving larger populations all the time, while New Orleans’ patient count was steady or declining even before the storms of 2005.

Today, what was once controversial is considerably less so, as physician training and residency programs in both cities are recognized as vital to the economic and health care future of the state. Tulane University has trained residents at Baton Rouge General Medical Center for several years.

The accrediting agency for the LSU School of Medicine is comfortable with the Baton Rouge expansion, LSU officials said. The branch campus will bring students to Baton Rouge full time for their third and fourth years of medical school, 32 each year.

While the Baton Rouge operation could ramp up from there, that’s dependent on future resources. The chancellor of LSU Health Sciences Center, Larry Hollier, said he wants to produce more physicians — and this is a path to getting that done, especially given the new public-private partnership LSU has established with Our Lady of the Lake hospital.

If LSU’s establishment of a branch campus of its School of Medicine is not that big a departure from the past, it is nevertheless an advance that should be welcomed.