Doctors needed

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The shortage of primary care doctors is a problem seen across the country, but it's especially problematic in more rural areas.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services designated 80 percent of Missouri, including all of Southeast Missouri, as a Health Provider Shortage Area. And with about 12 percent of Missouri medical school graduates choosing to pursue a career in family medicine in 2009, according to the Missouri Primary Care Association, the need could continue for years to come.

While in theory the new federal health care reform law would provide incentives for physicians in rural areas, there's no question that physicians see more lucrative opportunities through other specialties and in more urban communities. Hospitals are also trying to recruit physicians, offering incentives such as assistance in paying back student loans.

Despite best efforts to provide incentives for practicing medicine in rural areas and choosing family medicine over other specialties, it will take a generation of inspired students to fill the gap.

If you are one of those prospective medical students, consider becoming a primary care physician and practicing in a rural area -- especially in Missouri. There's no question that money in some cases can be an incentive to do otherwise, but there is also a benefit in knowing you are helping patients, some with few or no options close to home, receive the medical care they need.

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