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OSU Seeking To Increase Med Students To Meet Rural MD Demand

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ Regents governing Oklahoma State University plan to seek state funding to increase the number of students attending the OSU medical school to help ease an expected rural doctor shortage.

OSU Center for Health Sciences President John Fernandes on Friday predicted a shortage of 299 rural physicians by 2010.

``There's no time to waste,'' Fernandes told regents during their monthly meeting. ``There's a lot of national data that we need more doctors and health care professionals, and certainly in Oklahoma.''

Increasing class sizes from 88 to 115 would cost about $1.8 million the first year and $3.2 million to fully implement within four years, Fernandes said. Existing classrooms and clinical space can support a larger student population, but more faculty would have to be hired and labs would need expansion.

More than 1,679 students applied to the school for the upcoming year and 1,172 were found qualified. Just 88 were admitted.

OSU Regents plan to go to State Regents with their funding request.

The Board of Regents for the Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical Colleges also approved a new health insurance provider for employees of all OSU campuses, switching from the self-funded state plan for education workers to a three-year contract with BlueCross BlueShield of Oklahoma.

The agreement starts Jan.1 and guarantees premiums will not increase more than 5 percent in 2009 or 2010. Savings range from $34 to $130 a month for plans for employees and their families.

Under the plan, employees can select from a PPO, HMO or a high deductible plan with a health savings account.

Over the three-year contract, OSU will study ways to keep health costs down, including wellness initiatives and possibly a new self-funded system.

Regents also approved an academic integrity policy that sets up a system of appeals in cases of academic dishonesty, and affirms the regents right to revoke diplomas in rare cases of plagiarism.
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