Sunday, April 29, 2018

43% of Ky. medical-school students become primary-care physicians; nationwide, the figure is only 20 percent

Kentucky seems to be dealing with the shortage of primary care physicians more effectively than the rest of the nation, but it's still uncertain if the state's efforts will be enough.

The problem is that fewer medical students are choosing to go into primary care. With the average medical student graduating with $200,000 or more in debt, many opt for higher-paying specialties, Sam Dick reports for Lexington's WKYT-TV. To make matters worse, older family physicians are retiring or dying and more patients are getting older and sicker.

In the next seven years, the United States will need 52,000 more family doctors and Kentucky will need about 1,400 more -- mostly in rural areas, Dick reports.

"You know, we're seeing a lot of health-care providers that are just burned out," Lexington Clinic physician recruiter Robert Bratton told Dick. "They're being asked to do more and more, in less and less amounts of time, and it's very difficult. . . . It's staggering. It really is. "

Dr. Hoellein, associate dean for student affairs at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, told Dick that Kentucky is bucking this trend. He said that nationally 20 percent of medical school students choose primary care, but in Kentucky that number is up to 43 percent.

Toward that end, the UK medical school is expanding across the state. A two-year school is open at St. Claire Medical Center in Morehead, UK's Bowling Green campus opens this summer, and next summer UK Northern Kentucky will start taking medical students. The hope is that new, primary care doctors will train in those areas of the state and then remain in them to practice medicine.

Dick notes that physician assistants are helping to pick up some of the patient load, but Dr. Michael Eden, an "older family doctor," said, "Even at this point with them helping us out, we struggle some days to get everyone in."

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