EDUCATION

UMDNJ Dean Hopeful Merger Will Make School Stronger

Health care has been changing in New Jersey with new laws, an aging population and talk of a potential doctor shortage. One of the factors for health care in New Jersey is the state’s college merger, which includes UMDNJ. Dr. Thomas Cavalieri, dean of the UMDNJ School of Osteopathic Medicine, told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he’s optimistic about the merger and believes it will improve health care in the state.

Under the merger plan, Cavalieri said the UMDNJ School of Osteopathic Medicine will remain in Stratford and merge with Rowan University while other UMDNJ schools will merge with Rutgers University. Cavalieri expects the merger to take place July 1, 2013 and the school is preparing for it.

Cavalieri said he’s very hopeful for the future. “Our school has a track record of producing physicians — many of who go into primary care where the needs are greatest — that stay in the state of New Jersey. We expect with the merger with Rowan, for that to continue,” he said. “Based on my discussions with the president of Rowan, Dr. [Ali] Houshmand, he’s committed to build on our successes and make the school stronger and larger to better serve the health care needs of the state at a time when as you’ve already suggested, we’re facing a physician shortage.”

WATCH VIDEO:

Even though the economy is weaker than in the past, Cavalieri said medical school has gotten more competitive. He believes more young people are choosing careers in the health professions in light of the struggling economy. Last year, Cavalieri said there were 4,300 applicants for 162 spots and this year has 15 percent more applicants than at this time last year.

“This is actually exciting that so many young people want to choose careers in the health professions because they know there is a great need and they also know it’s a very rewarding and satisfying profession,” Cavalieri said.

Keeping doctors in New Jersey is difficult, but Cavalieri said he is proud that 50 percent of UMDNJ School of Osteopathic Medicine graduates stay in the state — a higher amount than those from other schools.

According to Cavalieri, there are many reasons physicians choose to leave the Garden State, including their financial situation. Jobs in other parts of the country pay a higher reimbursement rate, he explained.

“Many of them will leave not so much because they want to leave New Jersey but because simply they’re with a large loan repayment,” Cavalieri said. “Most medical students are graduating medical school with $175,000 to $200,000 of loan repayment and even once you graduate medical school there’s another three to five years before you really earn a substantial salary because you have the resident years yet ahead of you.”

Related: Barnabas Health President Calls Current Health Care System Chaotic