By William K. Alcorn
Robert Parise, a Lowellville native and second-year medical student at Northeast Ohio Medical University here, is among those at the forefront of the medical school’s effort to address the growing scarcity of primary-care physicians in Northeast Ohio and nationally.
Parise, who now lives in Kent, last year became NEOMED College of Medicine’s first full-tuition recipient of an Education for Service Scholarship, sponsored by the Sisler McFawn Foundation of Akron, which pays four years of tuition and fees.
In return, Parise, 23, a first-generation college graduate, is required to complete 64 hours of community service, keep in contact with the foundation, and meet regularly with a Summit County physician who will serve as his mentor. After residency, he must practice in Summit County as a primary-care physician for at least five years.
“Northeast Ohio is my home, and I planned to stay here anyway,” Parise said. “The scholarship was a natural fit. Primary-care doctors are what I am most familiar with and the type of doctor I want to be.
“This award gives me the greatest opportunity to pursue medicine without financial concerns. This will allow me to follow the primary-care path that I intended when I first began to seriously consider becoming a physician. I am deeply grateful to the Sisler McFawn Foundation,” he added.
Parise, the son of son of Robert and Francene Parise, is a 2007 graduate of Lowellville High School, where he was on the football team and played trumpet in the band. He graduated in 2011 from Youngstown State University with a bachelor’s degree in music performance.
His sister, Nicole Parise, is a student at YSU. His grandparents are Justine DeLillo of New Castle, Pa., and the late Michael and Jenny Parise.
“Primary-care physicians are desperately needed, and Education for Service scholarships are a key component to addressing the health-care work force needs and improving the economy in Northeast Ohio,” said Dr. Jay A. Gershen, NEOMED president.
Primary-care physicians are typically family physicians, pediatricians and general internists, and many people also include geriatricians and obstetricians and gynecologists in the category, said Dr. Jeffrey Susman, dean of the college of medicine.
“We think the primary-care physician shortage, perhaps 56,000 nationally, is significant and an even more-pressing issue with increasing numbers of people having access to health insurance through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and more,” Dr. Susman said.
NEOMED’s strategies aimed at increasing the numbers of primary-care physicians include scholarships and loan forgiveness, and also finding a way to close the income gap between those who specialize in primary care and other specialties which offer greater financial reward, Dr. Susman said.
Studies suggest that if primary-care physician reimbursements reached 70 percent of the income of other specialities, more people would be attracted to primary-care careers or other shortages.
The reality is about making some tough decisions about the distribution of health-care money. It’s about some specialists making $800,000 instead of $1 million a year and reimbursing primary-care clinical specialties through Medicare and Medicaid at a greater rate, Dr. Susman said.
There is compelling data that indicates that increasing the percentage of primary-care physicians would not only decrease costs but improve long-term outcomes for patients, he said.
“We ... could make a huge difference in peoples’ lives with prevention provided by a primary-care doctors ... instead of waiting until the person has a heart attack,” he said.
Parise, in his second year at NEOMED, said medical school is both “interesting and challenging,” but said his experiences with Dr. George Ellis in Boardman have exposed him to the daily working life of an internist.
Additionally, he said he has enjoyed working on interview techniques and patient education with Dr. Susan Labuda-Schrop, and mentors, Dr. Mark Munetz and Dr. Janice Spalding, who provide him with additional opportunities to volunteer in clinical settings.
“I find these hands-on experiences to be the most rewarding part of my medical education thus far,” he said.
Parise credited his parents for stressing the importance of education from the earliest stages of his life.
“ I grew up with the realization that they believed that I can achieve whatever educational goal that I intended to pursue,” he said.
Upon entering high school, he began studying music with “the most important mentor of my life,” Dr. Christopher Krummel, professor of trumpet at YSU’s Dana School of Music.
“He taught me dedication, discipline, and the essence of hard work that will serve me far beyond music. It will guide all aspects of my life and medical career,” Parise said.