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TWO MEDICAL SCHOOLS GET NATIONAL ACCREDITATION

They still have their opponents who say more residencies, not schools, are needed.

The state's two newest medical schools can start recruiting their first students, having just secured national accreditors' preliminary endorsement.

The Liaison Committee on Medical Education, a national accrediting body, has given preliminary accreditation to the fledgling medical schools at Florida International University in Miami and the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

UCF and FIU officials celebrated the news with press conferences Wednesday, nearly two years after state university system leaders approved their controversial new medical programs.

Along with the medical school approved for Florida State University in 2000, the UCF and FIU schools are the only medical schools created in the United States in the past 25 years.

Combined, the UCF and FIU schools are expected to cost taxpayers about $500-million during the next decade. It will cost roughly $20-million a year per school after that, by the universities' own measure.

Administrators at existing medical schools worry about the new schools' effect on their own state funding, and many argue the state needs more residency slots - not new schools - to boost its doctor ranks.

Nonetheless, UCF and FIU are pushing forward.

"I couldn't be happier or more proud of our team," said UCF medical school dean Deborah German. "They exceeded my expectations in every way as we strive to build a medical school that will be a model for 21st century medical education."

"At last South Florida has a public medical school - one that will lead medical education in the 21st Century," said FIU president Modesto A. Maidique.

The preliminary accreditation allows UCF and FIU to start admitting their inaugural classes, 40 students each. The two medical schools got $10-million in first-year planning money for this year, and Gov. Charlie Crist recommends they get another $18-million next year. He also wants to spend about $5-million for the existing medical schools at FSU, the University of South Florida and the University of Florida.

Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at svansickler@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3403.

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