Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Oklahoma doctor says key to increasing number of rural doctors begins with high school programs

Rural areas struggle to hire enough doctors, forcing many residents to travel long distance to cities for medical attention. In Oklahoma the average age of doctors is 54 years old, and 19 percent are over 65, Rowynn Ricks reports for the Woodward News in Woodward, Okla. a 12,000-poulation town near the panhandle. But one doctor says the key to bringing more doctors to rural areas is to get students interested at an early age, early admission to medical school, and to encourage doctors to take jobs in rural areas near where they went to school.

Dr. Kayse Shrum, provost of the Health Sciences Center at Oklahoma State University in Tulsa, told the local Chamber of Commerce, "the first initiatives are high school programs directed toward reaching out to teens in their rural hometowns and encourage them to begin to consider seeking a medical degree even before they graduate high school," Ricks reports.

One program "involves attending FFA leadership conferences around the state to meet with advisors and get their help in identifying students with potential to become doctors," because they already have a connection to rural areas, Ricks writes. Another program is the newly-formed Operation Orange, where medical school students and staff travel the state to visit high school students who have shown an interest in pursuing jobs in the medical fields.

Shrum said early admission to medical school is also key, Ricks writes. The OSU medical school begins interviewing students during their sophomore year, and if accepted, they can begin attending after their junior year. Shrum said, "Then when they complete their first year of medical school, their undergraduate institution will award them with their bachelor's degrees." OSU this year is starting a rural primary care physician course tract, where students spend two years in Tulsa, then "have the opportunity during focus courses to go back out to rural communities to gain experience and begin to understand the challenges they will face out there." Shrum also said that OSU is expanding its residency program into more rural areas, because doctors are more likely to practice closer to where they performed their residency. (Read more)

1 comment:

Danial Garcia said...

Well doctors in Oklahoma need to have incentive to relocate to rural areas and suburbs and practice there but I realize this is easier said than done.