UAB to Open New Med School Branch

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UAB Opens Medical School Branch in Montgomery

The University of Alabama at Birmingham is opening a branch of the medical school in Montgomery. UAB officials announced the plan yesterday. The new medical school branch will be located on the campus of Baptist Medical Center South. Ten third-year medical students will begin taking classes in Montgomery in May 2014; in 2015 the incoming class size will expand to 20. This is the third regional campus for the School of Medicine — the others are in Huntsville and Tuscaloosa.

The UAB School of Medicine’s regional campuses were created in large part to meet the need for more primary care physicians in Alabama.

“There is a dearth of primary care physicians in the River Region of Central Alabama, and the average age of doctors is over 50,” says Wick Many, M.D., former director of the Montgomery Internal Medicine Residency Program and the newly appointed regional dean of the Montgomery branch campus.

Most states in the country are dealing with a shortage of physicians. In 2010, Alabama had 3,230 primary care physicians, for a rate of 68.3 per 100,000 people, ranking the state 45th in the country, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. The shortage is even worse in rural areas. In order to meet the needs of a growing and aging population, the AAMC estimates the country will need 45,000 more primary care physicians and 46,000 more surgeons and specialists by 2020.

At UAB’s regional campuses in Huntsville and Tuscaloosa, 52 percent of graduates enter primary care. At the main campus in Birmingham, the majority of graduates — 74 percent — choose non-primary care specialties.

In Other News

There’s a grade changing scandal brewing in Montgomery public high schools. A four month investigation by the Montgomery Advertiser turned up dozens of current and former teachers who say they witnessed or participated in improper grade changing for hundreds of failing students the last two years. The teachers say school administrators changed grades for even more student. Montgomery Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Thompson called the alleged grade changing “rumors”. She said she plans to ask the school board to approve the hiring of an outside investigator.

A state website set up with the intention of naming illegal immigrants who have had run-ins with law enforcement — the so-called “scarlet letter list” — has yet to include any names posted. A spokesman for the Administrative Office of Courts tells that the court system had no cases to report for the last quarter. The office is tasked under state law with compiling the list. Lawmakers approved the controversial list when they made changes to Alabama’s immigration earlier this year. The provision requires the court system to compile a quarterly list of cases, including names, in which an “unlawfully present alien was detained by law enforcement and appeared in court for any violation of state law.”

There’s a new push to increase Hispanic voter registration in Alabama. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute will host a voter registration drive aimed at Hispanic citizens tomorrow. The event is being co-sponsored by Rivera Communications, which operates a Spanish-language radio station that broadcasts in central Alabama.

Another Democrat in the Alabama Legislature is switching parties. Sen. Jerry Fielding of Talladega County announced yesterday that he’s joining the Republican Party. His switch gives the Senate 23 Republicans, 11 Democrats and one independent. Since Republicans took control of the legislature in 2010 five democrats have switched parties. The Democrats have picked up just one Republican.

Five more Alabama counties are now eligible for federal aid to help clean up after Hurricane Isaac. Gov. Robert Bentley says the Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved his request for money for Covington, Dallas, Geneva, Monroe and Perry counties, which suffered $2.5 million in damage. The public assistance provides for debris removal, emergency protective measures, and the repair or replacement of public facilities and some non-profit facilities damaged by the hurricane.