More than 70 medical students at the UH Manoa medical school (The John A. Burns School of Medicine) went to the Capitol on February 8, to ask lawmakers to support continued tobacco settlement funding for the school. The funding, paid by tobacco companies in recognition of the harm caused by smoking, helps the school make a real difference in smoking prevention and treatment, students said.
Physicians are advising patients to quit smoking day in and day out in offices and clinics throughout Hawai’i, said medical student Zachery Thielen, of Kaua’i. He said while some “quit smoking” programs come and go over a few years, doctors are in the fight for their lifetimes, as they serve patients.
The medical school has been hit by $6 million in state budget reductions the past 2 years. Dean Jerris Hedges says without the tobacco settlement funding- which has averaged about $3 million a year–the school would likely have to seek more students from the mainland, who pay double the tuition. The trouble is, out-of-state students are less likely to stay in Hawai’i and practice medicine. Currently 90% of the UH medical school’s students are from Hawai’i, and half of the state’s practicing physicians are either graduates of the school, its post-graduate training program, or on its faculty.
The school says loss of funding would also force it to cut back on training opportunities meant to encorage more medical students to practice in areas with high shortage areas, like the neighbor islands. Last year a medical school study found Hawai’i is already 600 doctors short for its population, and the problem is growing with both aging patients and aging physicians. More than 1/4 of Hawai’i's medical doctors are already at or nearing retirement age.
See video clip of med student talking about the importance of funding.
See story and video clip on KHON-2 News.
Funding cuts pose a threat to future local medical students