Wednesday, May 2, 2012

TMA Hosts Medical Education Summit

TMA President C. Bruce Malone, MD, brought together a host of legislative staffers and state agency leaders to hear what Texas can do about the state’s growing physician shortage. The lineup of expert speakers included Jordan Cohen, MD, president emeritus of the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the top leaders of all the Texas medical school systems.

The purpose of the Where Are All the Doctors Going summit was to educate decisionmakers about the need to make funding graduate medical education a priority, document the growing demand for physician services, identify shortages of physician specialties, recognize the economic implications to communities as a result of an adequate physician workforce, and highlight innovative efforts to reform traditional medical education.

The physician workforce shortage is a major issue for Texas. “Seventy-four to 75 percent of Texas counties are judged by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to be physician shortage areas,” says Dr. Cohen. “Texas is obviously in significant shortage.”

The state is growing rapidly, and the Affordable Care Act promises to expand Medicaid by nearly two million people. Texas’ physician population is not keeping up with this surge in demand. Doctors are growing older, and looking toward retirement. Many young physicians, burdened with student loans, choose not to specialize in lower-paying primary care, an area of medicine severely impacted by the doctor shortage. And medical school graduates applying for residency positions to complete their training find there aren’t enough open residency slots in Texas for their graduating class. Ultimately, some graduates must leave to complete their medical training, and they are unlikely to return to Texas to care for patients. These factors combine to rank Texas 42nd in the nation in physicians per 100,000 people.

The panel of health care leaders agreed that to keep medical students and doctors in Texas, the state must strengthen its undergraduate and graduate medical education funding and increase the number of residency slots for graduating medical students.

Nancy Dickey, MD, family physician, president of the Texas A&M University Health Science Center and vice chancellor for health affairs for the university, spoke during the workforce education summit. Watch above for her take on the state of Texas' medical workforce.

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