Summit Health President and CEO Pat O'Donnell, left, and Dr. Craig Hillemeier, dean, Penn State College of Medicine; CEO, Penn State Health; and senior vice president for health affairs at Penn State, sign an agreement between Summit Health and Penn State College of Medicine for an academic collaboration that could help address growing demand for health care in Franklin County by providing training opportunities for Penn State students.
Monday, January 9, 2017

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – As federal and state agencies predict a shortage of more than 20,000 doctors by 2020, a new academic collaboration between Summit Health and Penn State College of Medicine could help address growing demand for care in Franklin County by providing new training opportunities for Penn State students in health professions.

Representatives from the two organizations celebrated the new collaboration with an informal signing ceremony at Chambersburg Hospital today. The agreement expands on a partnership that already involves Penn State College of Medicine physician assistant students, who have been doing clinical rotations at Chambersburg Hospital since May 2016. Other planned programs that are part of the agreement include:

  • A one-week primary care rotation for first year medical students to apply basic interview and physical examination skills in clinical practice;
  • Elective clinical specialty rotations for third- and fourth-year medical students;
  • Year-long learning experiences that allow third-year medical students to participate in patient care while forming long-term relationships with supervising doctors and patients.
  • Development of primary care residencies designed to attract doctors to practice in Franklin County and similar underserved locations.

The academic collaboration between Summit Health and Penn State College of Medicine is designed to help improve access to patient-centered, high quality, cost-effective health care for local residents by creating an educational environment for training the next generation of healthcare providers.

“The ultimate goal of this program is to make sure we have a steady stream of providers coming into the area to meet the needs of our patients,” explained Niki Showe, senior vice president of physician services at Summit Health. “We want to make sure the health and well-being of our community members aren’t compromised by a lack of providers.”

The inaugural group of physician assistant students will finish their clinical rotations  at Summit Health in April. Additional physician assistants will then begin their rotations and continually move through the program each year.

“We are enthusiastic to bring together a community-engaged health system and an innovative college of medicine in a way that creates unique opportunities for our students while also energizing our efforts to provide superior health care to residents of central Pennsylvania,” said Dr. Craig Hillemeier, dean of Penn State College of Medicine, CEO of Penn State Health, and Penn State’s senior vice president for health affairs.

Nationally, as well as in Pennsylvania, the number of physicians graduating from medical school isn’t keeping pace with an aging population that is dealing with a growing number of chronic conditions. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that by 2020, there will be a national shortage of more than 20,000 physicians. Workforce studies have shown that doctors tend to enter practice in communities like those in which they train.

“This program allows us to get medical students into our facilities and meet their potential co-workers in hopes of encouraging them to return,” added Showe. “Our patients are at the center of every decision we make. We’re excited for this opportunity and will continue to find ways to serve our patients well.”

Showe noted that as the program grows, it will include options for medical students to focus on specialty practices as Summit Health becomes a regional academic setting.

With the nation’s first Department of Family and Community Medicine, Penn State College of Medicine has historically been recognized as a key trainer of Pennsylvania’s primary care physician workforce. In 2011, the College of Medicine established a regional campus in State College, where primary care and community-engaged medicine are the centerpieces of its mission. The College of Medicine’s University Park campus trains 48 third-and fourth-year medical students each year, operates a family medicine residency program in partnership with Mount Nittany Health, and, in fall 2017, will offer a full medical education curriculum to an inaugural class of students.

“For medical schools like our College of Medicine, it’s not enough to increase the class size to help meet the growing demand for providers,” said Dr. Terry Wolpaw, vice dean for educational affairs at Penn State College of Medicine. “We also need to find innovative ways to train these providers in the many dynamic settings in which health care happens today. This new collaboration will help us meet the medical training needs—and therefore the health care needs—of tomorrow.”