Need a Primary Care Physician? Best of Luck If You Live in a Rural Area.

By Fred Jacobs
October 23, 2017

Rural America faces a shortage of 4,000 more primary care practitioners.[1]

Resolving this existing shortage — and stopping it from growing — will require an influx of primary care physicians into these underserved communities. International medical graduates will play a key role in filling these gaps.

Twenty percent of Americans live in rural regions. Yet fewer than one in 10 doctors practices there.[2][3] Overall, there are nearly 20 more primary care physicians per 100,000 people in urban regions than in rural ones.[4]

This imbalance is particularly devastating because folks in rural areas need more medical attention than those in urban regions. Rural Americans are more likely to smoke, be obese, or have high blood pressure — and less likely to eat healthy and exercise — than their urban counterparts.[5] Consequently, they have a higher chance of dying from heart disease, cancer, respiratory diseases, and stroke.[6]

U.S.-educated medical graduates won’t solve the rural healthcare crisis. Less than a third of these graduates enter primary care.[7] And only 3 percent of residents in their final year opt to practice in communities with fewer than 25,000 people.[8]

The real solution to filling this gap lies abroad. Two-thirds of international medical graduates go into primary care.[9] And they’re twice as likely as their U.S.-educated counterparts to work in rural regions. [10] Already, a quarter of all primary care physicians in the United States are trained abroad.[11]

Here at St. George’s University, 75 percent of our graduates go into primary care.[12] In 2016 alone, almost 900 St. George’s graduates obtained residencies in primary care.[13]

Rural America is in dire need of primary care doctors. These areas must embrace doctors from abroad.

 

[1] http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/closing-the-gaps-in-the-rural-primary-care-workfor.aspx

[2] http://www.hhnmag.com/articles/6881-rural-physician-shortage-demands-innovative-solutions

[3] https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/08/why-wont-doctors-move-to-rural-america/379291/

[4] http://medicaleconomics.modernmedicine.com/medical-economics/content/tags/american-academy-family-physicians/unequal-primary-care-workforce-dis

[5] https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p0112-rural-death-risk.html

[6] https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p0112-rural-death-risk.html

[7] http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/857443_5

[8] https://www.merritthawkins.com/2015-final-year-medical-residency-survey/

[9] http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/857443_6

[10] http://jaoa.org/article.aspx?articleid=2213422

[11] http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/closing-the-gaps-in-the-rural-primary-care-workfor.aspx

[12] http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/857443_5

[13] https://postgrad.sgu.edu/ResidencyAppointmentDirectory.aspx?year=2016

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