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Looming Budget Cuts Have 'U' Medical School Worried Sick

By Dennis Douda, WCCO-TV

-- University of Minnesota's Medical School took its worries over budget cuts to state lawmakers Tuesday.

To help ease a $5 billion budget deficit, Gov. Mark Dayton has suggested a 6 percent cut in state funding to the U of M. However, some lawmakers are asking University administrators to outline the potential impacts of 15 percent to 20 percent cuts.

Tuition costs, research and medical care are all at stake, according to testimony before the House Higher Education and Finance Committee.

Dr. Patricia Dickman is beginning a career in Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota, but worries the opportunity may be out reach for others if state budget cuts force a big jump in tuition.

"The average debt of one of my medical school classmates was $200,000 last year," said Dickmann. "The U is, I believe, one of the three most expensive (medical schools) in the country right now."

"Each dollar of state investment … is leverage to $9 in grants and research and for taking care of patients," said Dr. Aaron Friedman, who is the dean of the Medical School.

Friedman said the medical school has produced 70 percent of the medical professionals practicing in Minnesota and leads the nation in turning out doctors practicing family medicine. They are helping to address issues, he said, that are increasingly important as our population ages.

Dr. Daniel Garry said partnerships with the bio-tech industry could falter. Holding up a preserved human heart with a pacemaker attached said, "Ultimately, this technology spawned a $16 billion industry … the Fridley-based company Medtronic."

University President Bob Bruininks also addressed lawmakers. He told them 15 percent cuts in state payments would force the cost the University to make about $100,000,000 in spending cuts and put entire schools and campuses around the state at risk for closure.

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