The graduates' choices show how difficult it can be to recruit doctors to rural areas. "But the mission is critical: About two-thirds of the primary care health-professional shortage areas designated by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration in June were in rural or partially rural areas," Weber reports.
The situation is getting worse; more Baby Boomer doctors in rural areas are reaching retirement age, and there aren't enough younger doctors willing to replace them. "By 2030, the New England Journal of Medicine predicts, nearly a quarter fewer rural physicians will be practicing medicine than today. Over half of rural doctors were at least 50 years old in 2017," Weber reports.
Many medical schools warn students not to practice in rural areas, saying they'll be overworked and underpaid. "Only 40 out of the nation’s more than 180 medical schools offer a rural track," Weber reports. The federal government has "recently allocated $20 million in grants to help create 27 rural residency programs — programs where newly minted doctors go for practical training before they can be fully licensed. That’s a big jump from the 92 programs now active."