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MTSU-Meharry partnership will transform rural health care

Many in Tennessee state government share the goals of increasing access to health care, helping rural and distressed counties and providing additional funding for education.

The Middle Tennessee State University-Meharry Medical School Early Acceptance Program (MSEAP) provides a way for us to promote these three objectives. And I am pleased to report the State of Tennessee provided $1.2 million in funding for MSEAP in its 2020-21 fiscal budget.

MSEAP was developed under the leadership of MTSU President Sidney McPhee and Meharry Medical College President James Hildreth. It provides financial, academic, and experiential support for highly-qualified students to earn a bachelor’s degree (at MTSU) and complete medical school (at Meharry) on an accelerated path—faster—using efficiencies between the two academic institutions.

These efficiencies include a bridge program between the two universities, summer job-shadowing opportunities, and medical research opportunities while at MTSU. Students will also be exposed to unique aspects of rural medicine.

In return for this support, MSEAP students agree to practice medicine for at least two years in underserved areas after graduation.

The MTSU-Meharry partnership will promote increased access to health care, lower health care costs and enhanced health care quality.

The partnership will increase access to health care in rural and distressed areas by providing more doctors. The program plans to admit 10 to 15 new students per year. Over a seven-year cycle, 70 to 105 new doctors should graduate.

I have taught economics at MTSU for more than 20 years. Economic principles suggest an increase in supply puts downward pressure on prices. Based on my study of economics, I predict MSEAP will work to lower health care costs.

The MTSU-Meharry medical education program will also increase the quality of health care by using scholarships to attract the best students—those with the highest grades and test scores.

This is an example of Tennessee’s state government using its resources efficiently to support health care, rural and distressed communities, and education. Even amid COVID-related reductions in state revenue, policymakers are finding ways to support our priorities. I appreciate the strong support my colleagues in the Tennessee General Assembly and Gov. Bill Lee have provided for this important initiative.

I am grateful the leadership at MTSU and Meharry continue to provide innovative programs to help those in need.

State Rep. Charlie Baum (R-37th District) is a professor of economics at Middle Tennessee State University. He lives in Murfreesboro and serves on the House Finance, Ways and Means, Education and Consumer and Human Resources committees. 



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