More medical residency slots are coming to Florida thanks to a partnership announced today between one of the largest hospital networks in the country and the second largest university in the nation.

Hospital Corporation of America and the University of Central Florida College of Medicine, which established an internal medicine residency with the Orlando VA and Osceola Regional Medical Centers in 2013, are expanding their partnership to create more than 550 residency slots in hospitals across northern Florida. Some of the communities that will see new residents in training include Orlando, Gainesville and Ocala.

The new residencies will help fill a state and national need, and will also help address the doctor shortage in the Sunshine state. The doctor shortage impacts patients, which often must wait weeks to see doctors.

There are not enough residency slots in the nation for the number of medical school graduates each year, said Dr. Deborah German, UCF’s vice president for medical affairs and founding dean of the College of Medicine. While 97 percent of UCF’s medical school graduates find residencies, many qualified students do not simply because there are not enough spots, she said. After last year’s residency match, more than 600 U.S. medical school seniors were left without residency positions – effectively meaning they could not practice medicine after graduating with their M.D. degrees.

“We know that where a resident completes his or her program is usually where they decide to stay and work,” German said. “We are eager to partner with hospitals across our community and state to attract and retain more excellent doctors for Florida residents.”

UCF President John C. Hitt said, “Our agreement with HCA shows how our students, community and state benefit from the power of partnerships. Together, we will produce more well-trained physicians who will care for patients in Central Florida and throughout our state.”

Michael Joyce, FACHE, president of HCA’s North Florida Division, agreed. “As part of the nation’s largest hospital network, HCA’s North Florida Division brings significant resources and a dedicated commitment to meeting Florida’s critical need for physicians by expanding access to medical residency programs,” he said “We are honored to partner with UCF to provide outstanding training and mentorship that will prepare the next generation of physicians to deliver the highest quality of patient care.”

The first step in the new effort will be operating four existing HCA residencies under the consortium and seeking any necessary re-accreditation from the national Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). The agreement will not change any existing HCA or UCF partnerships. UCF currently operates the Osceola Regional residency in a partnership with HCA and the Orlando VA Medical Center.

The two parties have pledged to continue working together to bring more residencies in Florida. They plan to establish new residency and fellowship training programs over the next five years that could bring total enrollment to more than 550 residents and fellows and graduate up to 150 physicians a year.

Florida’s need is great as the number of residencies has not kept pace with the state’s growing population and its increasing number of medical schools. Florida currently ranks 42 of the 50 states in the number of residents per 100,000 people.

Orlando Health CEO David Strong said innovative partnerships can help Florida create more residencies, especially those in high demand specialties. “We are excited about the common work we do to make Florida and our region a national leader in graduate medical education. Orlando Health has been and will continue to be an advocate and leader in graduate medical education,” he said.

Lars Houmann, President and CEO of Florida Hospital, said, “Since its inception, one of the most important goals of the UCF College of Medicine has been to increase the number of physicians in our state. Residencies are a vital part of the formula of training and retaining high-quality physicians and Florida Hospital is pleased to see progress toward that objective.”

Tim Liezert, who directs the Orlando VA Medical Center, said his hospital’s two-year-old internal medicine residency with the medical school and HCA’s Osceola Regional Medical center has provided great benefits to physicians-in-training and patients. “We are eager to create more collaborations like these for our veterans and the community at large,” he said.