Detroit — A Detroit Medical Center committee won't try to save a prestigious training program for future neurosurgeons that lost its accreditations this fall, despite calls from Wayne State University to try to fix the program. 

The Detroit News learned that DMC's Graduate Medical Education Committee disclosed its plans in a conference call on Friday, according to two sources connected with the health system's committee.

The Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) withdrew accreditation from the residency program earlier this month following a site visit on Sept. 18, setting accreditation to end on June 30.

The program in neurological surgery trained up to 14 physicians annually. Neurosurgery is an elite specialty for which only about 218 physicians are trained annually across the U.S. The program has existed at the DMC since 1960.

Committee members would not comment on the decision over the weekend and referred questions to DMC spokesman Brian Taylor, who also would not comment. 

Wayne State University hoped to work jointly with the DMC to appeal the council's decision and get accreditation restored, Medical School Dean Dr. Jack Sobel told The Detroit News last week. 

The accrediting body informed the DMC in July of complaints it received involving the program. The council conducted site visits to the Detroit Medical Center's 65 residency programs on Sept. 18, and eight residency programs sponsored by the Wayne State University Medical School on Oct. 18. 

Late Sunday, Sobel said he had not yet seen the letter the council sent to the DMC detailing its reasons for withdrawing accreditation, nor had he been aware of the decision by the DMC's GME Committee not to pursue re-accreditation.

"Am I disappointed?  Yes, I am disappointed," said Sobel, upon hearing of the committee's decision. "I would like to have fixed it."

Though many committee members hold faculty positions with the university, the committee is solely responsible to the DMC, he said.

"(The health systems' committee) would only make that decision if they felt it was hopeless," he said of the DMC's plans not to save the program. "I assume the letter (from ACGME) was so damning that they felt there was just no way to fix things."

The accreditation loss is a byproduct of the discordant partnership between WSU and the DMC, although Sobel said that was not the direct cause. That relationship has deteriorated sharply over the past several years, putting at risk the medical attention provided to high numbers of indigent and under-served residents in the nation's poorest metropolitan city.

Loss of accreditation is rare, and rarer still for the seven-year residency programs in neurosurgery, with just 218 positions available nationally each year. They train physicians who perform brain and spine surgeries and treat patients with neurological disorders like stroke, Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease. Doctors must exit accredited programs to be board certified in their specialty.

Neurosurgery is among the most competitive medical professions and requires seven years of surgical residency following medical school. Neurosurgery residents contacted by The Detroit News declined to comment on the situation last week, but one described the situation as desperate.

"It's enormously disappointing," Sobel said. "It's the loss of another residency."

Twitter: @kbouffardDN

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