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Bill seeks $15 million boost for UA health programs in Phoenix

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PHOENIX – A Tucson lawmaker is seeking a $15 million appropriation that he says would allow the University of Arizona’s medical, pharmacy and public health programs in downtown Phoenix to turn out more health care professionals.

Rep. Ted Vogt, R-Tucson, said the money would provide more faculty, staff and programs at the UA College of Medicine-Phoenix and the Phoenix operations of the colleges of pharmacy and public health. In turn, he said, Arizona would address a shortage of medical professionals that is most acute outside of big cities.

“Arizona suffers from a lack of practicing physicians, especially in the rural areas, mostly due to the downturn of the economy,” he said at a news conference Wednesday.

The money is included in HB 2551, which won an endorsement Feb. 8 from the House Higher Education, Innovation and Reform Committee and was awaiting a hearing by the Appropriations Committee.

Of the proposed appropriation from the state’s general fund, $12.5 million would go to the medical school, allowing it to increase its incoming class for fall from 48 to 80.

The school opened in August 2007 and currently has 192 students. Its first class graduated last year.

Vogt said a lot of the students who study at the medical school come from rural communities and would be willing to return there.

“That’s something that we certainly need and would be beneficial to our communities,” he said.

“Our school is new and the money would only help it move forward,” said Angel Lopez, a second-year medical student from Yuma. “It’s important that our programs get the funding they need to help us do just that.”

The bill would allocate $2.5 million for the colleges of pharmacy and public health in Phoenix to launch a program in pharmacogenomics, which deals with the influence of genetics on patients’ responses to drugs, as well as improve existing programs and launch others.

Vic Williams, R-Tucson, said many places in his district would benefit from this funding.

“I represent a lot of rural areas and have noticed a shortage of doctors out there,” he said. “This would certainly help with that by putting students in a good position to help out some of these areas.”