To ease physician shortage, state approves funds for more residency slots

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In a move that could help ease the physician shortage in Indiana, the state has approved about $2.5 million in funding that could eventually lead to dozens of new residency positions.

The Indiana Graduate Medical Education Board recently awarded 10 grants to medical schools, health systems and other groups to either develop residency program or begin feasibility studies.

Officials have said there are not nearly enough medical residents in Indiana, especially in primary care and related specialties such as family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology.

Residents are young doctors, fresh out of medical school who work under supervised training that lasts from three to seven years. There are about 1,4000 residency slots in the state. All physicians are required to go through such a program, which usually takes place at a teaching hospital, before they can practice on their own.

The issue is critical because of a looming shortage of primary care. Indiana’s population is aging, and that often brings chronic conditions that need more medical attention. Meanwhile, about one-third of Indiana’s doctors are 60 or older and preparing to retire.

Indiana will need 817 more primary care physicians by 2030, an increase of about 21 percent, according to a study performed by consulting firm Tripp Umbach of Pittsburgh. Newton and Warren counties have the worst access to primary care, while Hamilton and Boone have the best.

Here’s a breakdown of the awards:

Program Development grants, awarded to institutions that are developing new residency programs. Four awards of $500,000 each, for a total of $2 million:

•    Indiana University School of Medicine’s Lafayette campus (15 spots for family medicine residents, beginning in 2018).
•    Southwestern Indiana Graduate Medical Education Consortium, Evansville (60 new positions over four years, beginning in 2019).

Program Feasibility grants, awarded to institutions that are exploring new residency programs. Six awards for a total of $444,906:

•    Indiana University School of Medicine’s Fort Wayne campus
•    Indiana University School of Medicine’s Bloomington campus
•    Northwest Indiana Graduate Medical Education Consortium, Gary
•    Meridian Health Services, Muncie
•    Schneck Medical Center, Seymour
•    Suburban Health Organization, Indianapolis.

In addition, the board earlier this year awarded seven grants to Indiana University School of Medicine for a total of $1.12 million. IU has said it has already filled those slots, which include positions in obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, emergency medicine and family medicine.

“This helps a great deal,” said Dr. Michelle Howenstine, senior associate dean for graduate medical education at the Indiana University School of Medicine. “We really need these positions to offset the projected physician shortage.”

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