UA med school graduate programs accredited

The residency and fellowship program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine Phoenix was granted a full 10-year accreditation earlier this month. (Nicholas Serpa/DD)

A graduate accreditation council granted the graduate-level residency and fellowship program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine Phoenix a 10-year accreditation earlier this month.

The college’s graduate programs were originally sponsored by Banner Good Samaritan Hospital for 50 years, but two years ago it was transitioned to the university, according to Associate Dean of Graduate Medical Education at UA Dr. Alan Leibowitz. The new relationship between the University of Arizona and Banner renamed the hospital to Banner University Medical Center.

The recent move by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) officially transitioned the sponsorship from the medical center to the university. The ACGME sets medical standards for graduate programs and the medical schools which sponsor them. They then accredit programs and schools based on compliance with these standards.

“We have really strong graduate medical programs and we have years to show it,” said Dr. Cheryl O’Malley, interim Vice Dean of Academic Affairs at the college.

Students attend undergraduate medical school for four years before being matched with a graduate medical program. These programs are completed in a hospital or clinic, for three to seven years. Students train in these programs and decide their specialty, according to Marian Frank, a spokesperson for the college.

Students also train at the Veterans Administration medical center if they are specializing in combined specialties, according to Leibowitz.

The new accreditation was an acknowledgement of the graduate programs the UA College of Medicine Phoenix has been running for years, according to O’Malley.

Leibowitz said he was “delighted” by the accreditation.

“We went from being a very good community hospital, well actually a terrific hospital in name, to a university program,” said Leibowitz.

O’Malley said the accreditation will boost their recruitment to the residency programs because students prefer university-affiliated programs with more research opportunities.

“It’s part of our program to attract and retain great students,” O’Malley said.

Leibowitz said the accreditation meant “a ton” because now they have a better research component and it shows they are doing more than what they used to when the program was just through Banner Good Samaritan Hospital.

“We have residents who are in training who are actually spending a year in research laboratories at the College of Medicine,” Leibowitz said. “The affiliation allows us to do more things in conjunction with the school.”

For example, Leibowitz said the medical school has a more elaborate simulation lab than the hospital does, so they will bring residents to the school for training.

“It’s really good for the school, because it puts the school on the map,” Leibowitz said. “But for our trainees, when people apply to the school to come here, they see more than just a community hospital.”

The university’s undergraduate medical program received a full accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education in June, Frank said.

The committee is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and accredits all programs leading to a Doctor of Medicine in the country.

Though the overall graduate program has been accredited by the ACGME, each specialized program, such as orthopedics, still has to be evaluated for accreditation, according to O’Malley and Leibowitz.

“The fact that we are accredited for 10 years means we have all the things necessary,” Leibowitz said. “But they still need to make sure that the operating rooms function, that the residents are getting educated, that they’re not used as service.”

Leibowitz said all of the programs are looked at carefully and it was important for them to be in top quality and treating the residents well for patients’ safety.

“If they’re falling asleep on their feet and can’t take care of patients then there’s going to be bad outcomes for that patient,” Leibowitz said, citing a rule that residents may only work six days and no more than 80 hours per week.

Moving forward, the college has to continue to maintain these standards even though the accreditation lasts 10 years.

“We just have to do our job and follow up every year and send in reports,”
Lebowitz said.

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