Sanford School of Medicine School of Medicine

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Pediatrics Residency

New program could keep doctors in state

By Jon Walker
Argus Leader of Sioux Falls
April 28, 2010

The state medical school has earned accreditation for a pediatric residency program that officials hope will keep more graduating doctors in South Dakota to practice.

Applications begin this fall for the program to open in 2011 at the Sanford School of Medicine of the University of South Dakota.The school will have six pediatric positions for each year in the three-year curriculum, a total of 18 slots when full.

Sanford Health is covering the cost, about $3 million a year by 2013. Officials said the program will be a step toward reversing the loss of medical graduates going elsewhere for their careers.

"The best predictor of where pediatricians practice is where they train," said Dr. Eugene Hoyme, chairman of pediatrics at the medical school.

Hoyme said South Dakota ranks 48th in the nation for pediatricians per 10,000 children. "We're really at the bottom in pediatric specialists and general pediatricians," he said.

A residency typically is the last step in 11 years of postsecondary training. A high school graduate hoping to be a doctor needs four years for a   bachelor's degree, four in medical school, then three more as a resident under the guidance of another doctor.

The first two years of medical school at USD are in Vermillion, the third and fourth in clinical settings in Yankton, Rapid City or Sioux Falls. Most of the pediatric residents will train at Sanford Children's Hospital in Sioux Falls.

The new program will give South Dakota a total of seven medical residencies. About 100 students are in the other six - family medicine, internal medicine, psychiatry, child psychiatry, pathology and a one-year transitional program for students before entering another residency.

Accreditation is from the national reviewing organization, the Pediatric Residency Review Committee.

Dr. Rod Parry, medical school dean, said South Dakota keeps 41 percent of its medical graduates, a rate that doubles to almost 80 percent for residents. They often start their careers around age 30 when they have young families and professional connections to a community.

"Many of our graduates want to go into pediatrics, but once they're elsewhere, it's difficult to come back," Parry said. "That's why this is so exciting."

The annual cost will be $150,000 to $200,000 per student. Part of that is a salary for the resident, $48,700 for the first year, $50,700 the second year and $52,700 the third.The tab could reach $3.6 million a year as the program fills to 18 students.

Federal money historically covers residency costs through Medicare, but that source is frozen at 1990 levels, Parry said. Money to expand has to come from another source. In this case, that's Sanford Health, which is distinct from the medical school, though the two institutions share the name of donor T. Denny Sanford.

Federal reform might provide some reimbursement on the cost, but that now is unclear, Hoyme said. Sanford sees the expense as an investment, he said.