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Addressing MS Doctor Shortage With Osteopathic Medicine

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Thursday, July 27, 2023   

Like many rural states, Mississippi is struggling with a shrinking workforce of primary care physicians, which means gaps in access to care are growing for its residents, but osteopathic medicine is on the rise, and it may be one way to address the challenge.

Mississippi will need an additional 364 primary care physicians by 2030.

Dr. Robert Cain, president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, said recruiting college students from rural and underserved communities will continue the growth of Osteopathic medicine and help meet the medical needs in these areas.

"What the osteopathic profession has actually been doing now for several decades is placing its colleges of osteopathic medicine in areas, nearly 60% of them, that are in underserved parts of the country," Cain explained. "With the idea that if we draw our students from those local areas, train them in local areas, we can keep them in those local areas."

The Magnolia State is working to make it easier to recruit physicians by offering scholarship programs to college students to address the challenges of Mississippi's health care crisis. Cain pointed out osteopathic medical students make up 25% of future physicians in the country, with a projection the number will grow to one-third by 2030.

Cain noted one in four students across the country is earning an osteopathic degree and is working locally in his or her community. He added osteopathic doctors are trained to focus on the patient's lifestyle factors and prevention of disease and injuries.

"Osteopathic philosophy is very focused on whole-person care," Cain pointed out. "Understanding mind, body and spirit, understanding the capacity of the body to heal itself, understanding how the structure of the body can affect our health."

A study from 2021 predicted the U.S. will face a shortage of between 38,000 and 124,000 physicians by 2032, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.


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