Why Christie has More than Tripled N.J.’s Funding of Doctor Training

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Gov. Christie wants more doctors in New Jersey, and he’s budgeted money to train them.

But increasing the number of medical professionals — and getting them to stay in New Jersey — isn’t as easy as graduating more students. The calculation also includes the number of postgraduate residencies offered in New Jersey and the number of doctors who stay afterward.

The state already has increased the number of graduates, with Cooper Medical School of Rowan University opening in 2012 and Seton Hall University’s medical school slated to open next year. Older schools also have added seats.

“The problem is, once you graduate medical school, you’re only halfway done,” said Thomas A. Cavalieri, the dean of Rowan University's School of Osteopathic Medicine.

Students need to finish their education with hospital residencies, which are in short supply.

“If you look five, 10 years down the road, there will not be enough residency opportunities for graduates of medical schools,” he said, speaking of the national picture. “And we’re trying to avoid a crisis. The crisis would be you get a medical degree, but you can’t practice because there are no residency programs to train.”

Nationally, there are already students each year who graduate from medical school and are not accepted into a residency program, leaving some to wait another year to try again or to give up and pursue another option, such as research.

“I have known other people who have tried three or four years in a row and didn’t match,” said Kelly Thibert, president of the American Medical Student Association, an advocacy group based in Virginia for medical students that has called for increased residency spots.

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