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New NAU medical school will focus on training primary care doctors, and keeping them in Arizona

Flagstaff will be getting its first medical school, after Northern Arizona University announced late last week that it will open one. Its focus will be on training primary care physicians to practice in rural, underserved and Indigenous communities across Arizona.

The effort is part of a broader initiative from the Arizona Board of Regents. Earlier this year, the University of Arizona announced a new College of Health Sciences, and Arizona State University is creating a School of Medicine and Advanced Medical Engineering.

To talk more about what all of this might mean for Arizona and its ongoing shortage of health-care providers, Will Humble, former director of the Arizona Health Department, and now executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association, joined The Show.

NAU's plan is "exactly what the state needs," Humble said. 

"They're crafting the medical school up in Flag so that students won't have a lot of debt when they come out, which means that they can afford to practice in primary care ...," Humble said.

The program also offers a quicker path, with six years from earning an undergraduate degree to completing medical training, according to Humble.

"Plus, their plan includes a piece that says ... when you practice in Arizona, then your loans will be forgiven."

Importantly, NAU is also increasing residency opportunities in Arizona, which will help keep doctors here, Humble said.

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Mark Brodie is a co-host of The Show, KJZZ’s locally produced news magazine. Since starting at KJZZ in 2002, Brodie has been a host, reporter and producer, including several years covering the Arizona Legislature, based at the Capitol.