Monday, April 30, 2012

Innovative programs get doctors into rural areas of Miss. and Kan. with incentives usual and unusual

Later this year, the first Mississippi doctor to take advantage of the Mississippi Rural Physician Scholarship Program will be able to start their career in a place that desperately needs them, make a guaranteed $30,000 a year and be promised the chance to turn a health tide that is overcoming a region. All they have to do is agree to stay in an area that is woefully short of doctors for a four-year stint. The Mississippi Legislature funded the program five years ago, reports Jeffrey Hess of Mississippi Public Radio. The only other condition for employ is that the doctors must have originally come from a small Mississippi town that was far from health care.

The problem in Mississippi is acute. In rural areas of the state, obesity and diabetes are the norm, and life expectancy is far lower than the national average, Hess notes. At least one county has no doctor at all. The program's recruiter says she's either looking for mavericks or missionaries. So far, more than 40 doctors are signed up to leave their residency and head straight for the Delta.

In rural Kansas, a small hospital is calling for missionary types, too, in something it calls "mission-focused" medicine. Based in a small town of 855 an hour north of Dodge, Kan., the Ashland Health Clinic has just 24 beds. It needed doctors who wanted to be in Ashland, but who felt a higher calling. The idea was to offer doctors who worked at the clinic eight weeks off every year to do missionary work overseas. Harvest Public Media's Peggy Lowe explained here that doctors in rural areas must deal with lower pay and isolation and that rewards like the two-month leave worked so well, the clinic got a new nursing director with the same sweet deal.

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