Recruiting Efforts to Draw Doctors to Rural Areas

By: Stephanie Palmer Email
By: Stephanie Palmer Email

Recent reports suggest Texas medical schools will need twice as many graduates over the next 14 years to care for a growing and aging population. This year, nearly 100 medical students are expected to graduate from the Texas A&M Health Science Center, up about 30 percent from 2005. The state is asking all medical schools to increase their class size.

"There are 150 counties that are actually under served with physicians," said Nathan Bertoldo, a medical student. "Thirty-five don't even have physicians."
Bertoldo is from San Antonio. However, he is thinking about practicing medicine in a more rural community -- where the need is greater.

"I actually got my Master's degree in Rural Public Health to better address that situation, " said Bertoldo.

There's dual benefit for him to practice medicine in a less metropolitan area.

"Texas is a unique situation," said Bertoldo. "They have some loan payment programs. That helps us with our debt after medical school, specifically if we serve in those areas."

Texas A&M is recruiting more primary care doctors to practice in rural areas. There are scholarships for students from that type of community who want to return, following graduation.

Bertoldo is one of dozens of students, Texas A&M is working to bring into the pool of doctors. Still, only about half of the graduates become primary care physicians, while others go into specialties like, surgery or psychiatry.

The university says while class sizes are steadily increasing, it will take time for those students to work their way through the four-year program. So, it may be some time before there are enough doctors on hand to care for the Lone Star State.

Experts say the number of residencies in Texas also contribute to the shortage of doctors. There simply are not enough hospitals providing hands on training for the number of graduates. So, they leave to go to another state and too many times do not return to serve the needs in Texas.

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