President Ruggerio announces appointments to panel
exploring potential establishment of medical school at URI

 

STATE HOUSE – Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio today announced appointments to a 21-member commission that will study and analyze the state’s health care workforce as it pertains to educating and retaining primary care physicians, including the potential of establishing a medical school at the University of Rhode Island.

 

“Few issues are as important as health care, and right now, our health care system is in critical condition,” said President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence). “Strengthening the primary care pipeline is an essential part of our work to make health care more accessible and affordable for Rhode Islanders, and this important commission will explore all options to achieve this goal, including a new medical school at URI. I want to commend Senator Sosnowski for her leadership to create this panel, and all the partners and stakeholders who have joined our efforts. My Senate colleagues and I look forward to the commission’s work and findings.”

 

“Rhode Island is headed for a crisis in primary care,” said Senator V. Susan Sosnowski (D – Dist. 37, South Kingstown), who sponsored the resolution (2024-S 3165) to create the study commission. “While we took important steps this year to address this problem as part of the Senate’s health care package, including monetary support for primary care training sites and tuition assistance included in the budget, more remains to be done. While we will continue to work on the aspects of the health package that address the coming primary care crisis, such as reimbursement rates, we also know that these bills are not a silver bullet. We need to explore every avenue we can to ensure Rhode Islanders can access the care they need.”

 

“We support the Senate’s resolution forming a special legislative commission, and we look forward to partnering with Senate President Ruggerio, House Speaker Shekarchi, and other elected officials and health care leaders on collective efforts to enhance health and wellness across Rhode Island,” URI President Marc Parlange said. “URI, as Rhode Island’s flagship public research university, is committed to addressing the state’s most pressing needs and to making a positive difference in our communities and in the lives of Rhode Islanders.”

 

The commission appointees include:

 

  • Senator Pamela J. Lauria (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), who will co-chair the commission
  • URI President Dr. Marc B. Parlange, Ph.D., P.Eng, who will co-chair the commission

 

  • Senator V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown)
  • Senator Alana M. DiMario (D-Dist. 36, Narragansett, North Kingstown, New Shoreham)
  • Senator Thomas J. Paolino (R-Dist. 17, Lincoln, North Providence, North Smithfield)
  • Representative Susan R. Donovan (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth)
  • Representative Jacquelyn Baginski (D-Dist. 17, Cranston)
  • Central Falls Mayor Maria Rivera

 

  • Dr. Staci Fischer of the Rhode Island Department of Health
  • Kerry LaPlante, PharmD., FCCP, FIDSA, FIDP, Dean of the URI College of Pharmacy
  • Danny Willis, DNS, RN, FAAN, Dean of URI College of Nursing
  • Dr. Patrick Vivier, MD, Ph.D., Dean of URI College of Health Services
  • Barbara E. Wolfe, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, URI Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
  • Margo L. Cook, Chair, URI Board of Trustees
  • Armand E. Sabitoni, Vice Chair, URI Board of Trustees
  • Thomas M. Ryan, member, URI Board of Trustees
  • M. Teresa Paiva Weed, President, Hospital Association of Rhode Island
  • Stacy Paterno, Executive Vice President, Rhode Island Medical Society
  • Christopher F. Koller
  • Dr. Michael Fine
  • Dr. Marie Ganim

 

The resolution notes that Rhode Island is experiencing a net loss of primary care clinicians and the shortage is expected to worsen in the years ahead. The inability of many Rhode Island residents to find primary care physicians is resulting in the use of community health centers and urgent care facilities to meet their medical needs, which strains resources and creates additional pressures on the health care system.

 

While Rhode Island is home to a private medical school, no new medical schools have been established in the state since 1972. Rhode Island must look toward the creation of a state college of medicine to train and retain the next generation of the primary care physicians.

 

The resolution was co-sponsored by President Ruggerio, Senator Lauria, Senator DiMario, Majority Leader Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln), Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton), Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston), Sen. Victoria Gu (D-Dist. 38, Westerly, Charlestown, South Kingstown), Minority Leader Jessica de la Cruz (R-Dist. 23, North Smithfield, Burrillville, Glocester) and Sen. Robert Britto (D-Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket).

 

The commission is charged with developing and issuing its recommendations to the Senate by December 20, 2025.

 

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