UNE President Danielle Ripich discusses economic engine of health care education at Portland Regional Chamber breakfast

March 03, 2010

University of New England President Danielle N. Ripich, Ph.D., addressed the economic impact of health care education in the state of Maine as keynote speaker at the Portland Regional Chamber's Eggs & Issues series at the Holiday Inn by the Bay March 4, 2010.

"The Economic Engine of Health Care Education" addressed the substantial economic and societal benefits of higher education in Maine. Dr. Ripich shared her personal insights and experience as the leader of Maine's number-one educator of Maine's health care work force.

The challenge of access to care in Maine's rural areas, as well as meeting the demand for health professionals in the nation's oldest state, were also discussed:  "In 2020, more than 1 in 5 Mainers will be 65 or older. This means we'll need more people providing more care,"  she said.

Dr. Ripich added, "Health care and education are two important economic drivers in Maine.  Health care is one of Maine's largest industries, employing over 100,000 people in 2009 and accounting for nearly 20 percent of employment and wages. Health care will account for one of every three new jobs in Maine over the next decade. It's big business."

Citing the importance and success of collaboration in the state, Dr. Ripich stated, "UNE's College of Pharmacy demonstrates that investment on the part of the university, community and the state can be a shared success."  This college is expected to have an economic impact of more than $100 million when it is fully enrolled in three years, and was awarded the 2009 Economic Achievement Award by the City of Portland last November in recognition of the economic vitality it brings to the region.

Dr. Ripich also said Maine is benefitting from UNE's growth in its health care-related programs. She said the university has a current estimated $440 million annual economic impact on Maine's economy. The school has 3,000 non-Maine residents enrolled, and  21,000 visitors to the two campuses each year who generate $6 million in spending for Maine businesses such as hotels, restaurants, retailers and others.

Dr. Ripich noted that a study done by economist Chuck Lawton of Planning Decisions Inc. in South Portland shows one graduating UNE class of 125 physicians, 100 pharmacists and 40 dentists would generate a lifetime earnings in Maine of $439 million, assuming that 66 percent of the class stays in Maine, which is the current average for graduating physicians.

The audience of more than 200 business leaders and professionals in southern Maine engaged in an active dialog during the question-and-answer portion of the program.  Questions were posed about the need for a dental school and improved oral health access in the state, as well as finding ways to partner to expand clinical opportunities for the increasing number of applicants to UNE programs in great demand.  

Dr. Ripich closed by stating, "I believe that if we work together - businesses, education, and health care - we can ensure that Maine and its people are healthy, that our economy is strong and growing, and that our children will have bright futures here in our beautiful state."