Sunday, July 24, 2011

Different way of making rural doctors:

This New York Times Article describes a new medical school opening in Salina, Kansas, with 8 students in their first class. In exchange for a debt-free medical education, these students will at least start their careers in rural areas. Although much has been made of an upcoming physician shortage in the US, it is only occasionally mentioned that there is already a grave shortage of physicians practicing in rural areas. Previous approaches to the problem are described in the article:

Some are using incentives like guaranteeing admission or forgiving loans to students who commit to practicing in small communities…Others are recruiting students from rural areas and giving their applications preference, in the hope that they will return after graduating. And a number of schools encourage students to spend one year or more training in rural areas.

I found the emphasis that the article made about being rooted in a community to be particularly insightful. They recognized that when students spend 4+ years training in a city, particularly during formative post-college years, they are likely to develop strong social ties (including finding spouses) to that area. I’ll be interested to follow how this small school in rural Kansas succeeds at training and retaining rural doctors.

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