Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., made a trip Thursday to Mosaic Life Care, to mark the expansion of the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Medicine’s program in St. Joseph.

The new expansion is part of a Medical Student Education Program that Blunt helped start in 2019. The program demonstrates the importance of keeping a supply line to rural health centers, he said.

“Obviously if you can get that training closer to places that are struggling to find doctors, it should apply in medicine just like it applies for entrepreneurs of all types and just a reinforcement of that,” he said. “And then watching to see the level of student activity — that it’s going to produce doctors where we need them.”

The site started with 20 students. The campus will add the same number each year until the student body reaches 80.

There’s a concerted effort to retain students after school is done, UMKC School of Medicine Dean, Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, M.D. said.

“We want them to not only stay in our state, but we want them to stay in the community where they trained,” she said. “And that’s why this is so important.

The campus is to get a portion of funds from 2021’s $40-million Labor, Health and Human Services Bill.

The explosion in popularity of telemedicine furthers the importance of rural availability, Blunt said.

“That has significant rural health implications, I think, including tele-behavioral health, the telemedicine generally, and I hope we continue to stick with that,” he said. “I think we will.”

It is one of the few silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jackson said.

“We’ve learned better ways to do things,” she said. “Telemedicine, particularly for behavioral health, has proven to be very successful. Forty percent of medical care now is being done by telemedicine, and we’ll learn a lot from that.”

As much as 48% of doctors were using telemedicine by April of 2020, Becker’s Hospital Review reported last year.

Students will do more schooling in St. Joseph each year there, Jackson said.

Alexander Simone can be reached at alex.simone@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter at @np_simone.

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