FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — The Medical University of South Carolina will start a new graduate medical program in Florence.

After graduating from medical school, the next step for medical students is to attend a graduate residency program to become a licensed physician.

But MUSC said in previous years, students weren’t making that step in the Pee Dee.

MUSC’s chief academic integration officer, Tsveti Markova, said the new program in Florence will come during a time of need for the Pee Dee.

“Not only for services, but they’re very high unfortunately in a lot of chronic diseases like heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes,” Markova said. “One of the worst outcomes in the country.”

Markova said the university conducted a community-needs assessment that determined the area needed primary care, mental health, and OB physicians.

She said the number of medical students in South Carolina has nearly doubled in the last 10 years, but it hasn’t solved the physician shortage because the number of graduate medical education slots for residencies did not increase.

Instead, they fell behind.

“So, all of a sudden, we’re in the situation that more medical students are graduating and we don’t have residency spots for them,” Markova said. “Which means they cannot remain in the state for their specialty training and leave.”

In a news release, the chief medical officer of the MUSC Health Pee Dee Division, Rami Zebian, said data shows a lot of times, physicians stay to practice where they did their training.

The new program at MUSC Health hopes to bridge the gap.

“Once they embed in that community, that’s what makes these residence very likely to actually continue practice after graduation,” Markova said. “And that’s one of the hopes, that they will love the community, they will love their experience and they’ll say ‘this is the place that I want to open my own practice.'”

The program is set to start in July 2024.

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Aundrea Gibbons joined the News13 team in May 2023 after graduating from Clemson University with bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and communication. Aundrea is a Marion native and graduated as salutatorian in 2019. Follow Aundrea on X, formerly Twitter, and read more of her work here.