Summer 2018

An Enduring Partnership

Harris BermanNext year will mark the tenth anniversary of our successful Maine Track program. When we launched the initiative in partnership with Maine Medical Center in 2009, we hoped to address the physician shortage in Maine, encourage graduates to go into rural care, and expand the medical school’s class size. I’m pleased to report we’ve made significant progress on all fronts.

The Tufts University School of Medicine and Maine Medical Center have had a long, productive working relationship. From the 1930s through the early 1980s, private funding through the Bingham Program provided Tufts students opportunities to rotate in Maine hospitals. In fact, I worked in the state twice in the mid-‘60s, during my training at the hospital now known as Tufts Medical Center. My very first rotation as an intern was for two wonderful months in Lewiston, where my wife and I had our first apartment as newlyweds and enjoyed the Maine seacoast and summer activities. Later, during my infectious-disease training at Tufts, I spent two weeks consulting and giving talks at the Knox Hospital in Penobscot Bay (now the Pen Bay Medical Center). Many other house staff and faculty members had similar experiences.

In 1980, Maine Medical Center started an affiliation with the University of Vermont—a split from Tufts that lasted 28 years. But the stars aligned again in the mid-2000s, when the hospital put out a bid to collaborate with a like-minded medical school on a track that would essentially create a pipeline of physicians for the state of Maine. Ultimately, MMC selected our proposal—and the Maine Track was born. It was very attractive for us because Maine Medical Center is a first-rate hospital with a first-rate faculty, so students get great training there. Plus, we were able to expand our class size from 165 to 200, which means more future doctors to care for aging baby boomers. And we have many alumni who practice in the state who were glad to see us return.

The Maine Track makes us unique among medical schools. With the eleven Longitudinal Integrated Clerkships around the state, we are putting serious effort into the challenges of staffing and caring for people in rural areas, a problem all over the world. We demonstrate to students the advantages of being part of a community—you can’t imagine it; you have to go out and experience it. (To learn more about the Maine Track model, turn to page 14.)

A quick note of gratitude: None of this would have been possible without Dr. Peter Bates, our academic dean at Maine Medical Center. He really made the process work—Peter retired from his roles as chief academic officer and Tufts dean for academic affairs at the hospital in July, and we thank him for all his effort over the years. He is now on a well-deserved, year-long sabbatical.

There was a time when the School of Medicine was considered a New England school that trained doctors primarily for New England. We’ve grown past that, but the Maine Track brings us back into some balance. I love that we’re providing physicians for a state that really needs them, yet we’re also a school that trains doctors for the nation. We recently signed a new 10-year contract with Maine Medical Center to extend the Maine Track program—here’s to another decade of partnership and innovation.

Harris A. Berman, M.D., Dean, Tufts University School of Medicine

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