A new neurology residency program has been approved for Palmetto Health and the USC School of Medicine, a move designed to meet a severe need in the state.
South Carolina has one of the highest stroke rates of any state, ranking in the top 10 for stroke deaths per capita. Every hospital, large and small, has to deal with stroke patients. But many small hospitals don’t have stroke neurologists, according to Dr. Souvik Sen, who will direct the new residency program.
“We do have a shortage of neurologists,” Sen said. “Stroke neurologists are very specialized, and every hospital needs at least one.”
The new program, recently approved by the national Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, should help reduce the shortage, though it will take a few years. The program will accept a class of three residents per year, and the training takes four years, Sen said.
The costs of the program are being shared by Palmetto Health, the Veterans Administration and the USC School of Medicine. Residents will do clinical work at both Palmetto Health and the Dorn VA Hospital under a team of 12 physician instructors. The first class will begin in July 2013, Sen said.
The state already has one neurology residency program at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. MUSC’s program traditionally has a class of four or five new residents each year.
The number of medical school students in the state has increased slightly in recent years and will see a big jump this year with the addition of a four-year program starting at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine in Greenville. The Greenville school’s first class will have 50 students, and school leaders hope to grow to 100 new students each year. The USC School of Medicine in Columbia enrolls about 100 each year, and MUSC takes in a class of about 170.
But the number of residency programs, which provide clinical training after med school, hasn’t increased in the state much in the past few years. That means more medical students from state schools have to go outside the state for training, and those doctors are less likely to return to the state, health experts say.
Palmetto Health and USC School of Medicine already have residency programs in dentistry, emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, orthopedic surgery, general psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry and surgery.
Sen, the founding director of the University of North Carolina Stroke Center, was recruited to USC two years ago as the Centers of Economic Excellence Endowed Chair in Stroke Neurology. His goal is to set up a premier stroke center, covering both clinical and research areas.
The residency program grew out of those goals as Sen recruited specialists who can teach the many sub-specialties that need to be covered.