The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler has been awarded a three-year federal grant of $750,000 to develop a residency program in rural northeast Texas.
The grant is part of a $20 million initiative by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to expand the physician workforce in rural areas by developing sustainable residency programs in family medicine, internal medicine, and psychiatry. UTHealth Tyler is the only Texas institution to receive an award.
UTHealth Tyler will use the funds to develop a rural training track in psychiatry that will be hosted in Pittsburg, where the university has a residency program for rural family medicine, school officials said. More than half of the 35 counties in northeast Texas have no practicing psychiatrist or less than one psychiatrist for every 2,500 residents.
"The mental health challenges in this region are very evident. Most of our counties do not have access to mental health services; we want to change that," UTHealth President Kirk A. Calhoun, MD, said in a statement. "We felt it was very important that we step up and help resolve these problems within our community and the state."
Physician shortages in rural areas are a major health concern in Texas, which leads the nation in rural hospital closures.
Rural residential training tracks can help offset that shortage by identifying and recruiting physicians who want to settle in rural areas. Numerous studies have shown that physicians tend to set up practice near their residency site.
UTHealth Tyler’s rural residency track is one of three such programs in Texas, along with similar programs at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) at the Permian Basin in Odessa and at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
“Supporting the training of health care providers in rural areas through grants like these is a key way to help expand rural access to care, and is part of an overall effort to support rural healthcare in sustainable, innovative, and flexible ways,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement.
UTHealth Tyler’s new residency track will begin interviewing candidates in 2020. Access to psychiatric care in the area – home to 1.5 million people – will immediately increase as patients begin to receive care from psychiatry residents in year one of the program, officials said.
Photo: UT Health Science Center at Tyler