Saturday, July 23, 2011

Training physicians in rural Kansas--and hoping they'll stay there

The University of Kansas is taking a somewhat novel approach to the shortage of primary care doctors in rural America: going to rural (or at least nonmetropolitan) America to educate doctors. The New York Times reports today on a new medical school in Salina, Kansas, population 46,006, which has an entering class this fall of eight students. The program is similar to one with some of the same aims at the University of Indiana in Terre Haute.

This excerpt from A.G. Sulzberger's story contrasts the experience that Salina students will have with those at the University of Kansas's "state-of-the-art medical and research facilities in Kansas City":

It will be a different experience, one that administrators say will better prepare students for the realities of a rural practice. Lectures on subjects like anatomy will be delivered via streaming video, lab work will be overseen by more practicing generalists and fewer academic specialists, and the problems of patients will tend more to the everyday than to the extraordinary.

And, the thinking goes, spouses picked up along the way are less likely to complain about moving to a small town.

This last part seems a critical component of the strategy because keeping the new doctors (and their families) interested in rural living is key to getting and keeping them engaged in rural practice.

Sulzberger notes other strategies policy makers have used in recent years to ameliorate the shortage of rural physicians, including recruiting students from rural areas and giving them preference in admissions, guaranteeing admission and/or forgiving loans for those who commit to rural practice, and encouraging students to spend time training in a rural locale.

In Kansas, the shortage of medical professionals has become acute in recent years--and it is expected to worsen as more physicians retire. A "vast majority" of Kansas is under-served, according to Sulzberger's report, with five counties lacking even a single physician.

Salina is the county seat of Saline County, Kansas, a micropolitan county with a population of 54,076. It is in north central part of the state.

1 comment:

Mike said...

All 50 states and U.S. territories require all U.S. medical graduates and foreign doctors to have U.S. residency training before obtaining a license to practice medicine. The general public has no idea that there is a "bottleneck" in doctors obtaining licenses. Last year 40,300 applicants completed all U.S. licensing exams and competed for 25,900 residency positions. 12000 applicants could not find positions which included 5000 U.S. citizens. When general practice doctors are having 30+ job offers, they will skip out on rural areas and inner city areas as they are doing today. Increasing residency positions is required before any immigrants or even new U.S. graduates can create any additional supply in doctors.