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Want to be a doctor? Kaine reintroduces bill to support medical schools

Tim Kaine, one of Virginia’s U.S. Senators, has re-introduced his “Expanding Medical Education Act” legislation to boost representation of rural students, underserved students, and students of color in the physician pipeline.

Under the bill, colleges and universities could get federal grants to establish or expand medical schools in underserved areas or at minority-serving institutions (MSIs)—including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

According to a news release from Senator Kaine’s office, the bill would encourage recruitment, enrollment, and retention of students from disadvantaged backgrounds at the medical schools.

Virginia is home to 5 HBCUs: Hampton University in Hampton, Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia Union University in Richmond, and Virginia University of Lynchburg in Lynchburg.

Senator Kaine is pushing to include this proposed bill in the Build Back Better bill.

He was quoted as saying, “Even before the pandemic, underserved, rural, and minority communities faced too many barriers in accessing health care. This has only been exacerbated by nationwide physician shortages. One way we can address this issue is by diversifying and expanding our physician pipeline, as medical students of color and those from rural areas are more likely to practice in the communities they’re from…This important legislation [will] help us get one step closer to ensuring that communities across Virginia and the nation have access to the medical professionals they need.”

“This legislation would provide the financial resources to increase our programs and opportunities for better healthcare in our community,” Dr. Hakim J. Lucas, President of Virginia Union University, was quoted as saying.

“Norfolk State University’s medical and health programs, such as Nursing, Allied Health, and DNIMAS, have a rich history of contributing to the advancement of healthcare in communities of color, in Hampton Roads, across the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the United States of America.  Norfolk State University supports this legislation and thanks Senator Kaine for his ongoing commitment to equity in education and healthcare,” Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston, President of Norfolk State University, was quoted as saying.

Specifically, according to Sen. Kaine’s office, the Expanding Medical Education Act would:

• Authorize funding to provide grants through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to colleges and universities to establish or expand allopathic (M.D. granting) or osteopathic (D.O. granting) medical schools in an area in which no other such school is based and is a medically underserved community or health professional shortage area OR at minority-serving institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

• Grants funded through this legislation would among other things require reporting to Congress on associated outcomes and would be used for:
+ Planning and construction of a new medical school or branch campus in an area where no other school is based.
+ Activities to meet accreditation criteria for a medical school.
+ Hiring diverse faculty and other staff.
+  Recruitment, enrollment, and retention of students, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities, students from rural and underserved areas, low-income students, and first generation college students.
+ Supporting educational programs.
+ Modernizing and expanding infrastructure.

Kaine’s office said the Expanding Medical Education Act is cosponsored by Senators Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

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