SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - LSU Health Sciences Center is growing — and at an unprecedented rate.
Shreveport’s medical school recently began training a new class of 150 students, that’s an increase of about 20 compared to last year’s incoming class.
“There’s a huge need of physicians in the state of Louisiana,” said Dr. David Lewis, the dean of the medical school. “We actually have a higher percentage of physicians that stay in Louisiana that train here.”
Lewis said a majority of the state physician shortages revolves around a lack of primary care doctors, such as OBGYNs, internal medicine, family medicine and pediatrics.
“Particularly in a rural state like Louisiana, we have a lot of health care challenges,” Lewis said.
Dr. Debbie Chandler, the associate dean for student and diversity affairs, said the lack of physicians can be partially attributed to an aging population.
“When you don’t have enough physicians to help them [patients] out, that really is a major concern,” Chandler said. “By increasing the number of students, we will help in preventing that shortage.”
With the dramatic expansion have come some growing pains, including finding ample space to train and educate students.
“We are very limited by space,” Lewis said. “We’ve had to increase classroom size it was originally designed for a little over 100 students, so we’ve added chairs there.”
Lewis noted 90 new physicians have been hired to compensate for the growing class size, which he believes is proof the school is progressing in the right direction.
“That’s a pretty dramatic increase for us,” Lewis said.."We’re growing the hospital, we’re growing the medical school and we plan on continuing that process going forward."
To meet the demands of a growing medical community, LSU Health plans to construct the Center for Medical Education and Wellness within the next three years, a sprawling 187,000 square foot facility. The $50 to $60 million complex will house more classrooms, operating room simulation suites, exercise space and clinical exam rooms.
“Our plan is to increase class size above 150,” Lewis said. “We want to be a national presence, we feel we put out a great product and have had students attend top residencies across the country.”
Upon completion of the Center for Medical Education and Wellness, LSU Health plans to further increase its class sizes to 200 students.