Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean today became the latest democratic presidential candidate to outline proposals to boost the nursing profession. Dean says the federal government should cover tuition costs for nurses who agree to work in “underserved areas” of the country where the nursing shortage is most acute. In addition, Dean, who is an M.D., says states should make it easier for nurse practitioners or physicians’ assistants to set up practice in rural areas. Dean spoke this morning in Des Moines before an audience of supporters, nurses and nursing students. Dean says he became a doctor long before he got started in politics, and Dean says while he was an intern, he “was taught a lot of good medicine by nurses.” Dean’s opponents have questioned his commitment to the Medicare program which provides health care to the elderly, as he supported Republican efforts in the mid-90s to cut the planned growth in the program. Dean held up his own stethoscope this morning to respond to those allegations.Dean says he spent 13 years of his life working as a doctor, working with patients from age five to 105. Dean says no senior needs to fear “that anything bad will happen to Medicare” during a Dean administration. Dean says when he was governor, he didn’t take up his stethoscope very much, but he treated the people of Vermont as if they were patients, and Dean says as president, he’d treat the people of the country the same way. Dean answered a question from a Japanese reporter after his speech, and then left without responding to Iowa reporters and addressing his controversial comments about the Confederate flag.