Physician Shortages in the U.S. We need more doctors

The United States physician workforce is facing current and future shortages. These storages remain persistent since 2002. I recently read a report published in 2011 by the Center of Workforce Studies Association of American Medical Colleges called Recent Studies and Reports on the Inadequacy of the U.S. Physician Supply. This publication highlights summaries of physician shortages in 33 states, shortages of 22 specialties and the findings of six national studies reporting that we do not have enough physicians and specialists.  In general, the medically underserved, elderly, children and adolescents are most likely to be affected.

Persons having allergies, heart, skin, stomach (GI), brain, infections, diabetes and mental health-related problems or needing a primary care physician will also be affected because there is a shortage in these specialties (e.g. allergy and immunology, cardiology, child psychiatry, dermatology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, neurosurgery, primary care and psychiatry).

Each state has its own challenges with the physician shortages. The authors of the Recent Studies and Reports on the Inadequacy of the U.S. Physician Supply do a great job describing what is happening in each state. For example, in Alaska the “competition for physicians will intensify.” California has “minorities underrepresented in California workforce.” However, California does have more specialists (115) per 100,000 people than the national average (range 85-105).

In Colorado, the elderly population is expected to increase by 50 percent by 2020, and the elderly who generally use more health care services may be affected the most.  Similarly, in Iowa, the “aging population will alter demand for physician services.”

In Florida, there are minorities underrepresented because the physician workforce in Florida is predominantly white (66.57 percent) and male (77 percent), which is not representative of the population. Illinois does a good job of training physicians, but “one-half of graduating Illinois residents and fellows are leaving. …Pennsylvania’s physician numbers have not been growing.” In Texas, “physician to population ratios will become increasingly unfavorable.”

Wisconsin is in greater need of primary-care physicians and asking, “Who will care for our patients?” Similarly, in Wyoming, two-thirds of its counties (15 out of 23) have fewer primary-care providers than the national average.

 

Strategies to Increase Physician Workforce

Common strategies reported to increase the physician workforce include increasing the number of state-subsidized medical-school seats, increasing the number of residency positions and expanding loan repayment assistance programs for physicians practicing in shortage areas, including rural Appalachia.  Talk to your school administrators and counselors to learn more about a career in medicine.

 

Learn about Science and Careers in Medicine at an Early Age

Another strategy is have our children and youth “fall in love” with science and careers in medicine at an early age. Get your kids involved in science projects, and find good mentors for them.

Check out your local middle and high schools that focus on health careers. I recently visited Marshall Math and Science Academy (MMSA), a local Title I middle school in Harrisburg, Pa. and was truly impressed. MMSA’s is under the leadership of Principal Marisol Craig and Vice Principal Ryan Jones. MMSA teachers and staff use a student-centered approach. MMSA offers innovative programs that empower students. These help enhance students’ creativity, innovative skills, critical thinking, communication, problem-solving skills and academic performance.

One example is their AquaPonics program, a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)-focused tool that utilizes economic, workforce-development, educational models of “Farm to School to Table.” AquaPonics is interdisciplinary in nature, and executed in partnership with local organizations, producing eco-friendly food staples for all to enjoy. This program has an evaluation components for produce yield, nutrition content and quality, highly efficient packaging, product marketing and cost analyses. Learn more about STEM programs at your local schools, and contact Principal Craig at mcraig@hbgsd.us to learn more about MMSA and its programs.

There is a physician workforce shortage in the U.S. According to the CDC, “social determinants of health are conditions in the environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.” It is important to have doctors in your community.

Be well, and stay healthy. Happy Mother’s Day to all. Send your health questions to ¡Hola, Oralia! at dr.oralia@gmail.com.  Together we can help keep our nation healthy.  ¡Salud! ◆

Oralia Dominic

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