FAH Hospital Policy Blog

Perspectives on health policy affecting America's hospitals and the patients we serve.

Workforce | FAH Policy Blog Team

New Podcast: New Doctors Caring for Patients in Their Hometowns; Plus Making the Rounds: From Firefighter to Nurse of the Year

There is a crisis looming for patient care in communities across the nation – a shortage of physicians. It’s part of a larger problem throughout health care as caregivers across the spectrum of care are in short supply. 

For physicians, the latest research shows that as demand for care from aging baby boomers increases, we could see an estimated shortage of as many as 124,000 physicians just around the corner in 2024.

This problem is especially acute in majority minority communities, often in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.  

The Prime Healthcare Foundation, led by Prime Healthcare Services founder Dr. Prem Reddy, recognized this issue and set out to change this reality for one community east of Los Angeles known as the Inland Empire. The Foundation founded the California University of Science and Medicine (CUSM) with a primary purpose to promote health equity by training the next generation of caregivers in their own community.  

In this episode of Hospitals In Focus Chip spoke with the President of CUSM and Dean of the School of Medicine Dr. Paul Lyons. We also have a new edition of Making the Rounds featuring Paddi Juliano from Lakewood Ranch, Florida. She talks about her amazing journey from a firefighter in Buffalo, NY to Nurse of the Year!

Chip started by talking to Dr. Lyons about the challenges facing the Inland Empire.

“It is made up of predominantly two large inland counties, San Bernardino County and Riverside County. Those counties face a number of challenges – economic challenges, educational challenges, and healthcare challenges. Those healthcare challenges include such things as a shortage of physicians in almost all disciplines and a shortage of other health professionals to meet the ancillary health needs of the individuals who live in this region. And the impact is residents often find themselves with less than ideal health outcomes, including high rates of such diseases as diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, and mental illness.”

Dr. Reddy, who has lived in this area for many years, recognized these challenges and decided CUSM could be part of the solution.

“His understanding deep understanding of the needs of this region are based really on his lived experience as a practicing physician in this region. He recognized that we needed access to educational and economic opportunities. In this region, we needed to produce a workforce of physicians who were specifically trained to understand and respond to the needs of this region. He saw the problem and proposed the creation of CUSM.”

That was 10 years ago and in May – CUSM graduated it’s first class, many of them participating in the school’s MD degree program.

“Not every student with an interest in health professions wants to go to medical school, but perhaps wants to be a dentist or wants to be a nurse, or wants to be a respiratory therapist. They too need scientific background before they’re good candidates for those programs as well, explained Dr. Lyons. “So we chose to produce an MD program as a direct response to the physician’s shortage and a master’s in biological sciences to allow students to be prepared for a variety of professional opportunities across the, the healthcare delivery spectrum.”

CUSM also focuses on recruiting students from the Inland Empire region, with the hope they will stay home and care for the community where they were raised.

“These are students with a strong interest in the health and wellness of their communities. They have a strong focus on the needs of their patients. They are giving and caring individuals. They are deep thinkers. They want to be grounded in cutting edge science, and they have a strong commitment to providing cutting edge care,” said Dr. Lyons. “We’ve also developed a hands on interactive and experiential curriculum that requires our students to engage with the sorts of issues that are impactful on patient wellbeing, issues of economic challenges, transportation challenges, environmental challenges, the impact of poverty on wellness, the impact of access on the ability to get care when it’s needed and the impact of not being able to access care on your overall health and wellness.”

Dr. Lyons also believes other regions suffering during the health care workforce shortage can learn from and replicate the CUSM model, especially the “idea of a public private partnership with a tight focus on regional needs in the building of the curriculum and the recruiting of students.”

This episode’s Making the Rounds segment features Paddi Juliano the 2022 Nurse of the Year for Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, which is part of Universal Health Services.

Paddi’s unique story includes starting her career as a firefighter in Buffalo, NY before moving to Florida and becoming a nurse.

“Being a firefighter and then transitioning to a nurse, very similar. You’re always, you’re running into the fire. When I worked as an ER nurse, you’re running into an emergent situation. So you always have to be aware and you have to really think critically. Those skills are just something that I just have always had. And no matter what, whether it’s saving someone from a burning building to saving someone’s life, by doing CPR, they just go hand in hand.”

During the interview Paddi got emotional while reading note from past patients who credited her with saving their lives.

She also spoke about the many roles she has filled at the hospitals and encouraged other to consider nursing as a career.

“No matter what field of nursing you’re interested in, there’s always a need, especially more so now than ever. The shortage is great, I mean, we see it here in in Florida. It’s just unimaginable. There is such a need to help people. I truly encourage and support anyone that wants to do that. You have the power to make a difference in someone’s life, and not only will you do that, but it’ll be a difference in your life too.”