Forum is First Step in Feeding Texas’ Physician Pipeline

Nov. 20, 2013

Texas physicians and higher education leaders are taking steps to improve the Lone Star State’s doctor shortage.

The Texas Medical Association (TMA), Texas Hospital Association and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) recently hosted a forum to educate non-teaching hospitals about serving as new places for young doctors to do their residency training. But they have to act quickly: Nov. 15 was the last day for hospitals and schools to apply for a planning grant to study the feasibility of housing new first-year medical residency programs.

After graduating from medical school, doctors need to do their specialty training, known as a residency or graduate medical education (GME). But those residents need places to train, physicians say, or many leave Texas to do so. “If we don’t increase [GME] training slots, physician shortages will worsen,” said Susan Cox, MD, regional dean for The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Austin. “And Texas already has a physician shortage.” Texas currently ranks 43rd in a national ranking of doctors to population. The state also does not have enough residency spots to accommodate all of its medical school graduates.

In 2013, lawmakers for the first time, authorized nearly $2 million in planning grant money to encourage hospitals to become teaching grounds for new first-year medical residency positions. “We’ve been talking about this problem for years and now we’re excited about the opportunity to do something about it,” David Coultas, MD, a member of TMA’s Council on Medical Education told Texas Medicine magazine in its November issue. TMA's Council on Medical Education organized the forum of state and national experts to educate the hospitals that are new to the concept and likely need academic partners to start residency programs.

The legislative investment marks progress toward addressing the bottleneck Texas faces in physician training as medical school enrollments outpace the number of entry-level residency training slots available. A 2012 report by THECB estimated that at least 63 Texas medical school graduates would not find an entry-level residency slot in Texas in 2014. That number jumps to 180 graduates in 2016.

In addition to cultivating future physicians, a residency program brings other benefits, say TMA physicians. It can save on recruitment and placement costs, expand health care access, and keep doctors that patients are familiar with in the community.

TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 47,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 112 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans.

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Contact: Pam Udall
phone:(512) 370-1382
cell: (512) 413-6807

Pam Udall  

Contact: Brent Annear
phone: (512) 370-1381
cell: (512) 656-7320

Brent Annear  

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