The University of Oklahoma Medical School in Tulsa will be expanding and the School of Community Medicine will see a name change. The News On 6's Emory Bryan reports it's possible because of a big gift from the George Kaiser Family Foundation, designed to turn around some health trends showing Oklahomans are among the unhealthiest in the nation.
Oklahoma came in last in one study of preventative health care and avoidable use of hospitals. The University of Oklahoma wants to address some of the issues and now has some money to make it happen.
Allison Barnes isn't a doctor yet, but she will be soon. Barnes graduates in May from the University of Oklahoma Medical School.
"As a medical student, you get a lot more one-on-one attention in Tulsa because it's a smaller class; the faculty to student ratio is so much smaller," said OU Medical Student Allison Barnes.
The students who follow her will have an extra incentive: a one of a kind curriculum on community health, coupled with financial help to pay off student loans.
"It's quite a bit of money. To date, I think I've amassed about $130,000 worth of debt," said Barnes.
The $50 million donation from the George Kaiser Family Foundation will help expand the faculty and help the school attract medical students who are seeking this kind of training.
"And will continue that commitment as they set up and continue their practices in rural and urban areas of the state," said OU donor, George Kaiser.
"Our health care is very dependent on health insurance and those with it have greater access to care than those without," said Daniel Duffy M.D. with the OU School of Community Medicine.
At the clinic on the OU campus, where the future Doctor Barnes is training, they see how a lack on regular care impacts long-term health.
"What really impacts public health is the chronic disease, heart, vascular, diabetes, chronic pain, and chronic disabilities that hurt the public health and costs lots of money," said William Yarborough M.D. with the OU School of Community Medicine.
By building up the medical school, OU can help change some of the health trends because they will have more doctors working in their free and low cost clinics. Then, the hope is that those doctors will stick around and continue their practice in Oklahoma.