In asserting that Maine does not need a new medical school, a recent opinion piece presented an incomplete argument (“Another medical school is not the solution to Maine’s problems,” May 10). Dr. James D. Herbert suggested that a new medical school would not enhance access to quality care, would be expensive, and would not support retention of young physicians in the state.

I believe a few key clinical realities were overlooked. First, with respect to timely access to quality primary and specialty care, particularly in the northern half of the state, a first-rate university medical school would ideally be intimately associated with a university hospital that can attract world-class faculty who are dedicated both to provision of care; to medical education and clinical training; and to research. Testimony in the Maine Legislature has suggested that an existing tertiary-care hospital, essentially proximate to the University of Maine Orono campus, could be an ideal partner for a medical school-affiliated training site and for expansion of inpatient beds.

Second, with respect to medical education and the retention of new physicians, existing and exceptional university programs can be readily adapted to specifically recruit and prepare pre-med students from poor and underrepresented communities in Maine, with an eye toward medical school, post-graduate training and ultimately practice here in the state. The success of innovative and cost-effective programs, perhaps leveraging other institutions supporting medical education in resource-scarce settings offers valuable precedent.

A new medical school, then, may be both fiscally achievable and meaningful in enhancing opportunities for pre-medical and post-graduate medical education, and also in significantly augmenting health care access both to high-quality primary and specialty care through a med school-affiliated university hospital, whose faculty and facilities could attract and keep world class consultants, investigators, teachers and newly qualified graduates in iterative fashion. Again, there is growing precedent nationally that supports these assertions.

It will be interesting to see what the impending comprehensively researched feasibility study for a University of Maine medical school concludes about the practicalities and multidimensional impacts of such an initiative.

Some months ago, in presenting the proposed legislation for the feasibility study, Sen. Joe Baldacci described a joint public-private partnership, to be supported privately by a generous and activist donor as well as a major health care services provider in Penobscot County, proximate to the flagship campus of the University of Maine.

Apart from the health care and educational components of the concept, here, is the matter of research.

It can be stipulated that Maine has the set pieces of a genuinely world-class research establishment: the University of Maine System itself, Jackson Labs, the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, Northeastern’s Roux Center for Computational Biology, the Maine Health Institute for Research and Abbott Labs are but a few of the major players. While links exist between some of these entities, including the University of New England in the southern part of the state, a university school of medicine could serve to further break down silos and augment collaboration and productivity in the face of our most serious health problems.

In conclusion, I would submit that any opposition to a University of Maine school of medicine is misplaced and, if heeded, would deprive our state of a superb and incredibly timely opportunity to improve the quality and equitable delivery of health care and health care education and training in Maine.

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