Shane Speights, DO, site dean of the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University (NYITCOM-Arkansas), recently outlined how the college is addressing the ongoing and potential future physician shortage in rural Arkansas. As Dr. Speights noted in Talk Business & Politics, NYITCOM-Arkansas graduated its second class in May 2021, and of the 117 graduating physicians, 23 decided to remain in Arkansas for their residency training. Many of those residency positions were not created until just five years ago—in no small part because of NYITCOM-Arkansas.
Expanding residency positions was a key goal for NYITCOM-Arkansas’ founding dean Barbara Ross-Lee, DO. She knew, before even matriculating their first student, that creating more options for graduates to remain in-state for graduate medical education (GME) would lead to more new physicians choosing to stay and practice in Arkansas. NYITCOM-Arkansas facilitated residency position creation by educating hospitals, healthcare organizations and other stakeholders through three “Graduate Medical Education Readiness” events. These events gave experts in residency creation, finance and training a platform to champion the benefits of expanding GME availability in the state.
Arkansas currently ranks 47th among US states for active physicians per 100,000 people. Over the last five years, thanks to the efforts of NYITCOM-Arkansas, the state has added five new Family and nine new Internal Medicine programs, which account for 113 new positions each year. Before 2017, Family Medicine residency positions had not been expanded in Arkansas since 1992, and before 2015, a new Internal Medicine program had not been started since 1949. NYITCOM-Arkansas, while only just graduating its second class, has already improved Arkansas’ access to healthcare and paved the way for continued advancement and growth.
Expanding GME is an important policy priority for the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM). Recently, AACOM has backed both the Doctors of Community (DOC) Act, legislation which permanently and sustainably funds the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program that expands primary care access in rural and underserved communities, and the Rural Physician Workforce Production Act of 2021, legislation that provides equitable federal funding for rural residency training to address rural physician shortages.
The combination of innovative solutions from colleges of osteopathic medicine such as NYITCOM-Arkansas and nationwide advocacy from AACOM will help mitigate the physician shortage crisis and make healthcare access more equitable. Please join us in advancing this vital legislation by urging Congress to pass both the DOC Act and Rural Physician Workforce Production Act.