Russell Legislation Studies Need for Specialized Medical University in the Fort Drum/Watertown Area

June 15, 2010

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell (D-Theresa) announced passage of legislation (A.8173) she sponsored to initiate a SUNY Upstate Medical University study regarding the need for a branch campus in the Fort Drum/Watertown area. Having a branch campus locally should increase the number of local professionals, including medical graduates, physician assistants and nurse practitioners.

“This legislation will address two issues that face the North Country: shortages in medical professionals and retention of young professionals who are forced to move away from the North Country in search of specialized education or job opportunities,” Assemblywoman Russell said. “In addition, a SUNY Upstate branch in the Fort Drum/Watertown area can be directly linked to the 2-year programs currently offered at JCC, so students will no longer have to look elsewhere in the state or country to further their education and obtain a higher degree.”

The study will help lay the foundation for SUNY Upstate Medical University to join forces with the health care, higher education and business leadership of the region to complement their services and establish branch campuses and programs. The proposal will include all four colleges at SUNY Upstate, including the Colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Graduate Studies and Health Professions.

Russell noted that while New York’s cities have 340 physicians per 100,000 people, rural areas have just 169 physicians per 100,000 people; that number continues to fall.

“More and more students I talk to would like to attend college in the North Country and remain here, because like me, they love the region they have grown up in,” Russell said. “The results of this study will hopefully relieve our young professionals from having to make the difficult decision to uproot, because the educational opportunities and jobs will be right in their backyard.”

The findings of the study are scheduled to be reported to the governor, the Legislature and the SUNY Board of Trustees no later than Jan. 2, 2011.