Building the Health Care Pipeline
November 10, 2021
Even without the added pressure of a pandemic, the U.S. health system faces a shortage of doctors. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the shortage could be as steep as 124,000 doctors by 2034. Hackensack Meridian Health believes that curbing this crisis—and keeping pace with the rapid rate of change in health care—is dependent on building a strong pipeline of health care providers.
“It’s an amazingly exciting time in the field of medicine as we continue to make new discoveries so rapidly that, at times, it’s almost impossible to keep up,” says Bonita Stanton, M.D., dean of the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine. “It is important that we have a robust group of younger doctors in the field who understand the technology leading to these changes, are at the peak of their ability to absorb knowledge and bring curiosity to the medical field.”
That is why in 2018, the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine opened its doors to the first of a unique class of aspiring physicians. Students of the medical school have the opportunity to spend their fourth year doing research, earning another degree, completing a specialty immersion program, doing community advocacy work or graduating after three years and starting their residency at Hackensack Meridian Health.
Tony Varughese is one of the first graduates of the medical school. An avid runner who raced from California to New York raising money for cancer research, he earned a scholarship sponsored by the Susan Zabransky Hughes Memorial Fund. Each year, the Run for Sue Committee works closely with Hackensack University Medical Center Foundation to host the Annual Susan Zabransky Hughes Memorial 5K in Saddle River to raise crucial funds for various initiatives at Hackensack, including respite camp for pediatric patients.
“We were so happy to learn Tony had done so many runs for cancer research,” says Susan Zabransky, chair of the memorial fund and mother of Susan Zabransky Hughes, who battled cervical cancer. The Zabranskys have been donating to Hackensack for decades and have been focusing on cancer-related giving since the loss of their eldest daughter 10 years ago.
Tony is in the first year of his residency program in internal medicine and plans to do a fellowship in oncology. His father, a brain cancer survivor, inspired his focus.
“When I was deciding on a medical school, I wanted to stay in New Jersey because I’ve been here my whole life and my family is here. Hackensack Meridian Health has great hospitals, so I felt confident the medical school was going to be great, too,” Tony says.
Adds Jeffrey Boscamp, M.D., vice dean of the School of Medicine and co-chief academic officer for Hackensack Meridian Health: “Scholarships are a powerful way to attract superb students to our school—and then Hackensack Meridian Health hospitals—who otherwise might not have been able to afford it. We are developing a whole continuum, from medical students to practicing to residents to physicians, who are trained in our mission and community-based curriculum.”
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