Back before I posted this piece about how DeVry -- yes, that DeVry -- wanted to train students from one of its Caribbean medical schools in Texas hospitals, I reached out to the for-profit university for a more detailed explanation of their plans and, perhaps, a comment. None came. But over the weekend, the PR folks at DeVry dropped me an email to me to see if I had time to schedule an interview with Dr. Bruce Kaplan, executive dean and chief academic officer of the American University of the Caribbean.
When I spoke with him yesterday, Kaplan said he was surprised by the pushback from lawmakers and medical school officials who fear that AUC's presence in Texas might edge students at Texas medical schools out of scarce clerkships in teaching hospitals.
AUC had been quietly pursuing the proposal for more than a year. The school already places about 90 percent of its students in clerkships at U.S. hospitals (the rest go to the U.K.), but Kaplan said that some of AUC's Texas-born students wanted to finish out their medical training closer to home.
Texas is one of a handful of states, including California, New York and New Jersey, that regulates the relationships between medical schools and teaching hospitals. In most other states, Kaplan said, individual hospitals decide what medical school to partner with.
So AUC approached the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board with a modest proposal: Grant AUC a two-year permit to place 20 Texas-born students in clerkships within the state.
Kaplan said the low number and short time period would allow the THECB and other medical schools to decide whether opening Texas' doors to AUC students would pose a problem. AUC also worked with THECB, to convene an independent panel of medical education experts that visited the Saint Maarten campus to evaluate the quality of the school. The panel, Kaplan said, issued a sterling report.
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The idea was to be open about AUC's intentions and provide a test run so that the "turf battles, political battles, non-objective comments would be weeded out," Kaplan said.
Things didn't exactly happen that way, so AUC is now in a holding pattern while THECB waits for an opinion from Attorney General Greg Abbott on whether granting a permit to a foreign medical school is legal.
AUC thinks it is.
"We believe the coordinating board does have authority to do this," Kaplan said. "We're hoping that by presenting objective information," the proposal will be approved. "If they don't, we look at any and all remedies that may be available."