When the federal government reduced its funding of Medicaid in Louisiana, the LSU charity hospital system took the brunt of the $152 million in cuts. LSU’s medical students, for whom the charity hospitals are a training ground, have been caught in the tumult.
WRKF’s Ashley Westerman traveled down to New Orleans to meet with three students to get a feel for how they’re dealing with the uncertainty.
She spoke with Matt Landrum, a third-year student from Lafayette who aspires to be an Orthopedic surgeon; Clark Alsfeld of New Orleans, a fourth-year student who wants to go into internal medicine; and Dan Logsdon a third-year student from New Orleans who has his sights set on becoming a surgeon.
And they told Ashley the education opportunities offered through the unique network of charity hospitals played a major part in their decisions to attend LSU’s medical school in the first place.
ALSFELD: This is Clark. It absolutely did. I think, you know, one of the most important facts of medicine is that there’s a lot knowledge to be learned from the books but experience is a big aspect of patient care. And, you know, getting the experience as early as your third year – or even here we get exposure first and second year – it’s very important. And, you know, at times I almost feel like the autonomy we get is almost second to none.
WESTERMAN: And as someone who went to LSU, you already knew, sort of, that this network was here and so is that why you decided to stay?
LANDRUM: This is Matt. The charity system was a major deciding factor in my choice to stay at LSU New Orleans because you have to get experience, hands on experience, before going into a residency. And here I’m getting the ability to do injections as a third year medical student and a lot of hands on experience that I find very valuable.
WESTERMAN: Okay, and so what was your first reaction when you heard about the budget cuts and the result that they would have on the charity hospital system?
LOGSDON: This is Dan. You know, the budget cuts kind of came to me as a shock. When you see something being rebuilt here in New Orleans, if you’ve seen the construction being done on the new hospital, you have hope that the charity hospital system is coming back. And so when you see these budget cuts come at such a crucial time, it just makes you…it made us worry about our education. How are we going to be educated? And how are we going to be able to take care of the indignant population here?
ALSFELD: This is Clark. I think it was initially frustration, initially fear of kind of the unknown of what was going to happen, what would be the next step because this was, you know, everything seemed to move at a very rapid rate. So we were kind of unsure what would happen next. And as a fourth year it’s obviously very concerning as, you know, I approach a critical decision-making point in my career.
WESTERMAN: So is the uncertainty of what’s happening right now with the hospital system effecting your decision at all about where you'd like to do residency?
ALSFELD: You know, initially there was a lot of worry. What would happen next? Where would we train? Would we, you know, be working in a hospital with 90 beds? How many patients does that mean I get to see? How many admissions do I get to do? All these questions, but it really didn’t affect my decision at least. Certainly I’ve got a lot of faith in the faculty and the administration to get it done and to make it work for us.
WESTERMAN: And what about you?
LANDRUM: This is Matt. Dan and I have the luxury of being third years with, in this time of change, we can have a year to get accommodated to the new things that will be going on. So we’ll see how it goes for the next year before I can definitely make that decision.
WESTERMAN: Over the last week or so some partnerships have been discussed and some agreements, or at least memorandums of understanding, have been made. How has that changed your all’s outlook on this issue?
LOGSDON: This is Dan. Children’s Hospital, we’ve all rotated through there for our pediatric rotations. They are an excellent private hospital. Their faculty and staff and their residents all take time to educate medical students out of every day. You know, every patient is a teaching opportunity for us and that is one reason that working at Children’s is great. So hearing about this partnership with Children’s Hospital, it kind of confirms in us that, as we talked about before, that the charity hospital system of patient care and then education is still going to exist.
ALSFELD: This is Clark. You know, I’ve talked to many classmates who see this as a very good thing for us. Like Dan said, we’re very pleased with our experience when we do our pediatric rotation at Children’s Hospital. The autonomy we’re given. You know the interaction and the time the faculty get to teach us. I think that was a big concern with moving to a privatized hospital system, you know, that we were concerned that maybe the faculty would have their focus elsewhere. But the mission of Children’s Hospital is education and patient care, and those two things are very important to us and we’re glad to see that that’s going to be transitioned to the new hospital.
WESTERMAN: Finally, are you all glued to the budget news now and how things are happened and what hospitals are stepping in and etc. Or is it business as usual for you all?
LOGSDON: This is Dan. It’s definitely been business as usual in terms of taking care of patients. You know, nothing has changed on that end. But we’ve all been very in-tuned with what’s going on, especially on Capitol Hill, the decisions that they’re making because it is going to affect our ability to take care of patients in Louisiana. But the dean, the chancellor here have done such a good job of getting us involved, of meeting with us as often as we want. Making sure that when something new comes out that the information comes to us. That we have a sit-down meeting with him. They’ll sit down, answer any questions. It’s a very open-door policy, very honest. So that’s just helped us as students feel more comfortable with what’s going on and it just shows that we have great leadership here with our chancellor and dean.