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An Interview with E. Eugene Marsh, M.D.

Eugene Marsh photo

Eugene Marsh, M.D.

In January 2011, E. Eugene Marsh, M.D., became the first senior associate dean of the Penn State College of Medicine Regional Medical Campus in University Park, where he will drive the College of Medicine’s vision for a regional academic and clinical campus in collaboration with the University and Mount Nittany Medical Center. He is also associate director of the Penn State Hershey Medical Group in State College, which has grown from one to five clinical sites in the State College area in the past year. He came to University Park from the University of Alabama, where he served as dean of the College of Community Health Sciences, the regional medical campus in Tuscaloosa as the culmination of a career ranging from private practice, medical education, and health care administration. In his new role, his priority list is long: to oversee the growth of medical group practices; to develop academic programs for College of Medicine students who will pursue their clinical training in State College; to craft a curriculum that emphasizes primary care and rural health; to develop dual-degree programs in areas such as business and law; and to establish a Family Medicine residency training program with Mount Nittany Medical Center. Dr. Marsh recently talked about the vision for the Regional Medical Campus and how it can help prepare physicians for the future demands of medicine.

Q. Why is it important for the University and the College of Medicine to develop the Regional Medical Campus at University Park?
A. A number of things have led us to this point, including a need to expand the clinical services and improve access to health care in this region. Harold L. Paz, M.D., dean of Penn State College of Medicine, and others at the Hershey and University Park campuses saw the opportunity to develop a regional campus at University Park. This campus presents a unique educational opportunity for medical students and residents. There has been a history of strong collaborations between University Park and the Hershey campus in research and other areas. We expect the regional campus will enhance that relationship and increase research funding and opportunities for faculty on both campuses.

The opportunity to develop dual degrees is another goal. Another factor is the recognition that there is a shortage of primary care physicians, particularly in parts of Pennsylvania not far from University Park. We expect that the regional campus would be a good way to help address the health care needs of rural Pennsylvania.

Q. What is the vision for the Regional Medical Campus?
A. This Regional Medical Campus has all the components necessary to be one of the best of its kind in the country. This is a time when we in medicine definitely need some innovative approaches to how we deliver care, how we train future doctors, and how we do research. We think the partnerships we have in place to build this campus will facilitate that kind of innovation.

Q. What kind of relationship will the Regional Medical Campus have with the University?
A. There is a tie-in that will be enhanced with the different colleges on this campus. It will involve everything from dual-degree programs to eventually providing an environment where, under some of the newer and more innovative approaches to health care, we hope to be able to treat our patients in an interdisciplinary environment. That would involve medicine, nursing, nutrition, exercise physiology, psychology, health education, and others that are an important part of a comprehensive team approach to managing chronic illness—commonly referred to as the patient-centered medical home model. We also hope we can educate students from not only the College of Medicine, but also from the other disciplines on campus, such as nursing, in the patient-centered medical home environment. We’re looking forward to working with other University Park colleges to establish this as both a practice model and an educational model. We also expect to work with the University in making sure what we do is cost-effective. Our goal is to help provide cost-effective, high-quality, patient-centered health care for the Penn State community.

Q. How will the regional campus tie in with the College of Medicine?
A. The regional campus is accredited through the College of Medicine in Hershey, and a lot of what we do is in partnership with the campus there. We want to make sure the students who come here get a comparable experience to students in Hershey, even if the environment is different. Different regional campuses across the country have different relationships with their home campus. The one here will be a close relationship.

Q. What is the thinking behind the dual-degree programs?
A. There is an opportunity to develop dual degrees in various fields, such as law and medicine, business and medicine, or engineering and medicine. This should enhance recruitment for both the medicine and the partnered-degree programs. Students in these programs will probably spend two years in Hershey and the other two years here on our campus to allow more overlap between the degree program they’re pursing in University Park and the medical degree.

Q. How would the affiliation with Mount Nittany Medical Center work?
A. Historically we’ve had medical students participate in different rotations at Mount Nittany. The development of the regional campus will increase the importance of Mount Nittany Medical Center as a training site for medical students and residents. There is a growing emphasis on moving more training to the outpatient arena, but clearly the hospital continues to be an important place for training to occur. We have also been working together on bringing new or enhanced resources for the community, most recently a hospitalist physician service. The administration at Mount Nittany has been very helpful, through activities like providing a place for the students to live, providing a lounge area, and making sure they feel welcome in the hospital. The physicians affiliated with Mount Nittany have been teaching and have committed to continue teaching. That’s a very important part of a regional medical campus. It offers a good opportunity for students to work very closely with an attending physician, which will result in more one-on-one instruction. I have worked in both large academic medical centers and regional campuses. They each bring some unique attributes. The smaller class size, the more one-on-one instruction, and the more clinically based focus are some specific things that regional campuses can offer.

Q. What is the process for establishing a Family Medicine residency program with Mount Nittany as part of the regional campus partnership?
A. Development of the new residency program is well underway, with ongoing discussions among the Mount Nittany board, as well as leadership and faculty at Hershey who have experience in developing outstanding residency training programs. This intricate process takes about three years, including faculty recruitment and the accreditation process. We hope to have board approvals in place within a month or two, then we will begin recruiting a residency program director, with an anticipated enrollment of a first class of six residents for the 2015-16 academic year.

Q. You were at the University of Alabama for quite awhile; what drew you to the job at Penn State?
A. My time at Alabama varied from being on the faculty at the University of Alabama School of Medicine in Birmingham to being in a practice environment to teaching at the Tuscaloosa Regional Medical Campus, which I did for the last seventeen years. Over time I became more involved with academic administration, eventually becoming the dean of that regional campus. It was rewarding to learn what a regional campus could do, and what unique value it adds to the overall educational environment. When I learned about Penn State’s plan and Dr. Paz’s vision for a regional campus in State College, and I saw the support and resources for making it happen, I could not imagine a better opportunity. I am drawing on my experiences in private practice, teaching, and administration to work in Penn State’s dynamic environment. I am excited to be part of building what could truly be one
of the best regional medical campuses in the country.

Q. You continue to see patients. Why is that important to you?
A. I love to see patients. Also as an administrator, it helps you maintain credibility with other people that you work with who are doing that on a more regular and intense basis. It also presents opportunities to be involved in clinical teaching of medical students and residents.

-By Richard M. Kirkner

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