Fewer grads from public medical schools staying in Illinois

CHICAGO — The number of medical school graduates who stay in Illinois after graduating from the from the state’s public universities is dropping.

Crain’s Chicago Business reports school officials are offering different takes on why, though some point to the state’s two-year budget impasse.

The state has two public university medical schools: Southern Illinois University’s School of Medicine and the University of Illinois College of Medicine. The number of medical graduates from those schools who will remain in Illinois for their residencies has hit a combined all-time low. Private medical schools in the area, which don’t rely on state funding, aren’t seeing the same declines.

Among the students who decided to leave was Matt Soltys, 27, who was raised near Springfield. He earned molecular biology and kinesiology degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and then went to medical school at SIU. But he’ll head the University of Iowa next month to start his internal medicine residency.

“It’s fully hitting me that I’m leaving, and I’m really sad,” he said. “The thought that the budget impasse might affect my medical education and my patients is incredibly frustrating. I wanted to go to an institution that didn’t have those constraints.”

Soltys has a rare vantage point. His father ran the psychiatry department of SIU’s medical school until last year. When he began working there in 2002, the department had six state-funded faculty positions. It now has none. He also has watched two hospitals in Springfield cut funding for internal resident positions.

Jerry Kruse, dean of SIU’s School of Medicine, said the percentage of graduates from his school who complete residencies in Illinois has fallen to 21 percent this year, the lowest in school history. The share has decreased 9 percentage points each year since 2014.

For decades before that, the percentage of the school’s roughly 70 graduates each year who stayed hovered between 40 and 45 percent.

“Nothing has changed much over this period except the budget impasse and the atmosphere it’s created,” Kruse said. “Young doctors read about it in the papers every day and suddenly there’s a fair amount of uncertainty about the future.”

At the University of Illinois’ College of Medicine, 28 percent of this year’s graduates are staying in the state for residencies, which is down from nearly 37 percent last year. But the school’s dean, Dimitri Azar, notes that the percentage of graduates who remained in Illinois for their residencies was 33 percent in 2015, 41 percent in 2014 and nearly 34 percent in 2013.

Azar said students choose their destinations mostly based on a program’s quality, not the state’s finances.

–Associated Press

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