California has an unusually large number of doctors heading into their retirement years. It expects a much higher-than- average rise in the health-intensive 65-and-older population. And it has one of the lowest reimbursement rates in the country for Medi-Cal, the state's primary program offering health coverage for the poor.One of the many concerns regarding the Affordable Care Act is how the country is going to adjust to the overwhelming increase of patients in the healthcare system.
"The Affordable Care Act will add hundreds of thousands of people to the rolls of the insured. That's good," said Dr. G. Richard Olds, founding dean of the UC Riverside School of Medicine. "But where are the primary care physicians going to come from to serve that population?"The problem described by Dr. Olds is even more prevalent in rural areas, where doctors and healthcare are already in short supply. Although creative thinking and brainstorming can solve many problems, it seems the only way to solve this problem is to get more doctors into the field, especially ones working in rural areas.
The University of Kansas, a medical school that focuses on keeping graduating doctor’s in rural areas, often faces challenges getting graduates to stay:
They say they have every intention of coming back to rural Kansas but they meet a soul mate, they get married. Their soul mate happens to be from a big city and we never see them again. They get captured in the big city. Hopefully, if we train them in smaller communities, they can meet their prospective spouses here, they can network here and they have those connections which can be lifelong.The UC Davis School of Medicine had recently launched a new program that will help train soon-to-be Doctors to practice general healthcare in rural areas. This program is aimed not only at educating young doctors on how to practice in rural communities, but also helping to build ties between young doctors and rural communities.
The program at UC Davis medical school advertises the practice of rural medicine as one that offers many opportunities due to its broad scope of practice:
Students at UC Davis will train for rural medicine in a way far different from their predecessors. Our focus combines team medical practice, advanced information and telecommunication technologies and evidence-based medicine, while still recognizing what has always made rural medicine fulfilling and fun: that broad scope of practice, great relationships with patients and the knowledge that you are making a difference.The innovative curriculum at UC Davis Medical school will:
Increase student exposure to rural practice, allow for consistent teaching and mentorship by rural physicians, equip students with tools for life-long learning, combine the M.D. and master's degrees in public health, medical informatics or another, related health-care field.Programs like these could be a saving grace for patients in rural areas. The unique curriculum used by the UC Davis School of Medicine does not just educate students on how to practice rural medicine, but actually exposes them to rural communities. Hopefully, this kind of exposure will help create ties between young medical students and the communities they are working with. Furthermore, the exposure to such medicine at the beginning of a doctor’s career may result in a new population of doctors that value and appreciate the work that needs to be done is rural communities.