More than 110 new residency positions are on their way in the Fort Worth area by 2024, thanks to an expanded partnership between the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine and the hospital chain Texas Health Resources.
The number of Texas medical school graduates is rising, with nearly 2,000 expected to receive a diploma in 2023, up from 1,700 in 2018, according to data compiled by the Texas Medical Association. Without enough residencies, those young physicians will head off to other states once they graduate.
The residency expansion will have a positive impact on students and medicine regionally and statewide, says founding dean Stuart D. Flynn, MD.
“This will attract physicians to the community who are academically minded – that’s a big deal,” he said. “Also, our medical students will have more and more house officers with whom they will train – individuals very close to them age-wise and more sophisticated in their training, but still very new in their careers. And it also opens up more residency slots, both locally and for the state and the nation.”
A 2017 state law backed by TMA, Senate Bill 1066, requires all new publicly funded medical schools to ensure there are enough residency positions in the state to accommodate the school’s expected number of medical graduates. But that does not directly affect a private institution like the Fort Worth medical school – jointly formed by Texas Christian University and the University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) – which opened in 2019 with 60 students and will graduate its first class in 2023.
Increasing the number of local residencies also will benefit students at the UNTHSC Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, also in Fort Worth.
Texas Health is a nonprofit health care system with 29 hospital locations and 130 outpatient facilities. TCU-UNTHSC students train at some of these hospitals – which are located in Fort Worth, Hurst-Euless-Bedford, and Denton – giving them a chance to build relationships that can make residency acceptance more likely.
“It’s bidirectional,” Dr. Flynn said. “[The hospitals] get to look at our students [while they train], and, more importantly, our students are looking at them, and they’ll be marketable nationally. To keep them here, you’d better have a [residency] program worthy of keeping them here.”
Keeping just-graduated medical students in Texas for residency is important in part because medical students who do their residency training in Texas have a more-than 80% likelihood of staying and practicing medicine in the state, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
And keeping residents in state helps address the state’s chronic shortage of physicians.
Thirty-two of Texas’ 254 counties have no primary care physician, and the shortage is even more severe in certain specialties, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. For instance, in 2020, 170 counties had no psychiatrist.
Texas’ shortage – part of a nationwide physician shortage – is projected to increase from 6,218 physicians in 2018 to 10,330 physicians in 2032, according to the May 2020 Texas Physician Supply and Demand Projections.
Third-year TCU-UNTHSC student Brandon Mallory says he would like to stay in the Fort Worth region. The Keller native says he plans to apply to many different residencies nationwide to keep his options open, but the idea of doing his residency locally is attractive because it would allow him to remain close to friends and family.
“I’ve been in Texas over 10 years with high school and college, and my mom lives in Keller,” he said. “Being able to stay close and continue building on the things we’re doing in medical school with the community and the hospitals would be really cool.”
The new residency programs deepen the existing partnership between TCU-UNTHSC and Texas Health by creating new educational opportunities for students and faculty and by promoting academic research, Barclay Berdan, CEO of Texas Health, said in the announcement. For instance, the two institutions may partner on simulation training, clinical skills training, and faculty development.
That the residency programs are affiliated with a medical school also will help the Fort Worth hospitals involved recruit physicians, Dr. Flynn says.
“Eight-five percent of allopathic grads want to go to a residency program that has an affiliation with a medical school,” he said. “All of a sudden Fort Worth now has a couple [more] internal medicine residency programs that are affiliated with a medical school.”