Resident Physician Shortage Addressed in Grant Funds and Legislation

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences has received a $4.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to improve access to quality health care in rural Arkansas by expanding efforts to train and retain primary care physicians.

“Retaining physicians to provide primary care in Arkansas has been a long-term mission of the College of Medicine,” said UAMS Executive Vice Chancellor and Dean of the College of Medicine and program director Christopher T. Westfall, MD. “Although we have worked to make Arkansas a national leader in retaining our medical graduates, Arkansas still has one of the worst physician shortages in the nation and we’re among the states projected as most likely to have serious primary care shortages by 2025.”

Over 500,000 Arkansans — over one-sixth of its population — live in an area defined by the federal government as lacking the adequate number of health professionals to serve the population. According to the Arkansas Department of Health, 50 out of 75 counties in the state fully or partially meet that definition.

The Arkansas Medical Education Primary Care Partnerships project is a multi-prong approach to help strengthen long-term health careers pipeline by recruiting and retaining more medical students from rural areas of the state, create more opportunities for students to experience primary care practice in rural settings, and increase the number of rural clinical rotation sites and preceptors.  Continue reading about the Arkansas Medical Education Primary Care Partnership project here.

This comes at a critical time as the entire United State is expected to face a shortage of over 120,000 physicians by 2032, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.  United States Senator John Boozman has joined a bipartisan effort to introduce the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act, which gradually lifts the caps on Medicare-supported doctor training slots by 4,000 per year over five years.

“This commonsense bill is a modest yet positive step we can take to improve access to quality medical services in urban and rural communities across Arkansas.  More doctors are getting their education in Arkansas than ever before.  The openings in recent years of the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Smith and the NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine in Jonesboro add to the well established UAMS College of Medicine which has been training doctors for more than a century,” said Boozman.

“We all share the common goal of increasing the number of physicians and investing in future doctors for our health care, and by working together we can help supply the medical professionals Arkansas need,” he said.  Continuing reading Senator Boozman’s statement on the Resident Physician Storage Reduction Act.

The Arkansas Medical Society commends Senator Boozman on championing this critical issue and we look forward to working with him and our state legislators on ways to reduce residency shortages.