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Penn State College of Medicine forges new partnership

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Patrick O'Donnell, left president and CEO of Summit Health joins Dr. Craig Hillemeier, dean at Penn State College of Medicine, in signing an agreement under which medical students from Penn State will rotate through Summit's Chambersburg Hospital in Franklin County.
Patrick O'Donnell, left president and CEO of Summit Health joins Dr. Craig Hillemeier, dean at Penn State College of Medicine, in signing an agreement under which medical students from Penn State will rotate through Summit's Chambersburg Hospital in Franklin County. - (Photo / )

Penn State College of Medicine has entered into a new partnership that aims to increase access to health care for people in Franklin County.

Students from the Derry Township-based medical school will soon begin training on-site at Chambersburg Hospital, said Penn State and Summit Health, the parent of Chambersburg Hospital.

Penn State and Summit Health are teaming up to address a shortage of physicians in Pennsylvania that is expected to worsen as the population ages. And they are building on the tendency of physicians to practice where they are trained, said Niki Showe, senior vice president of physician services at Summit Health.

In addition, the opportunity to teach medical students could appeal to physicians who are recruited to Summit Health from outside the area, Showe added.

People in rural areas like Franklin County will likely feel the impact of a physician shortage the most. By 2020, the U.S. is expected to face a shortfall of more than 20,000 physicians, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has estimated.

The Penn State medical students will join physician assistant students from Penn State who have been doing rotations in Chambersburg since May. The first group of physician assistant students will finish clinical rotations in April.

New programs for medical students will include a one-week primary care rotation for first-year students and elective clinical specialty rotations for third- and fourth-year students. Primary care residencies also will be developed to attract doctors to Franklin County.

Summit Health needs more physicians in almost every specialty, Showe said.

Summit Health also created a program in 2009 in which it covers a portion of medical-school bills for students in Franklin and Cumberland counties who promise to come back to the area to practice, said Patrick O’Donnell, president and CEO of Summit Health.

Fourteen people are enrolled in the program. Summit Health pays between 65 percent and 85 percent of their school expenses, including tuition and textbooks, in return for their commitment to practice in Franklin County.

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Lenay Ruhl

Lenay Ruhl

Lenay Ruhl covers Lancaster County, health care and agribusiness. Have a tip or question for her? Email her at lenayr@cpbj.com. Follow her on Twitter, @lenay_ruhl.

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