Teaching Health Centers Promise a Solution to Primary Care Physician Shortage in Underserved Areas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, May 20, 2016

Contact:
Leslie Champlin
Senior Public Relations Strategist
(800) 274-2237, Ext. 5224
lchampli@aafp.org 

WASHINGTON, DC — The Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program, which funds residency training in community-based settings, may begin to approach the estimated need for an additional 2,200 primary care graduates annually by 2020, according to a study by Robert Graham Center analysts.

The study, “Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Locations Predominantly Located in Federally Designated Underserved Areas(www.jgme.org),” surveyed 60 THCGME programs to identify the clinic sites that train primary care physician residents. Researchers then compared those locations to federally designated shortage areas including primary care Health Professions Shortage Areas, Medically Underserved Areas or Populations, and rural areas.

Their results showed that seven of 10 of the programs’ 109 clinics were in a federally designated high-need area.

The finding is important because it shows teaching health centers can be an important factor in the primary care physician maldistribution. Research has shown residents tend to establish their practices near their residency training, according to researcher Kathleen Klink, MD, FAAFP, former medical director at the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care and current Director of Medical and Dental Education in the Office of Academic Affiliations, Department of Veterans Affairs.

Previous Graham Center research(www.stfm.org) demonstrated that more than half of newly minted family physicians practice within 100 miles of where they completed their graduate medical education, nearly half practice within 50 miles of their residency training site, and one in five practices within five miles of their residency location. Other research shows “significantly more” residents graduating from teaching health centers plan to practice in community health centers, rural health clinics and other settings that care for underserved Americans.

“Early reports indicate that THCGME graduates are likely to practice in underserved and rural areas at three to four times the rate of traditional graduates, with almost half (45%) planning to practice in Federally Qualified Health Centers,” Klink and her co-authors write in the May Journal of Graduate Medical Education report. “With the training of more than 550 residents during the year of study (2014–2015) and the anticipated growth rate to be more than 700 in 2015–2016, the THCGME program may begin to approach the estimated need for an additional 2,200 primary care graduates annually by 2020.”

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About the Robert Graham Center

The Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care works to improve individual and population health by enhancing the delivery of primary care. The Center staff generates and analyzes evidence that brings a family medicine and primary care perspective to health policy deliberations at local, state, and national levels.

Founded in 1999, the Robert Graham Center is an independent research unit affiliated with the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). The information and opinions contained in research from the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of the AAFP.