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Doctor's Prescription for Healthier Michigan: More Primary Care Physicians

Doctors say medical school graduates don't currently have enough options for community-based training in Michigan. (clarita/morguefile)
Doctors say medical school graduates don't currently have enough options for community-based training in Michigan. (clarita/morguefile)
August 7, 2017

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – They see patients from birth to death, and some family physicians say getting more medical students to choose the primary care field could play a big part in creating a healthier Michigan.

Michigan has long been a leader in medical education, but many graduates either leave the state for residency or choose higher paying specialties.

Dr. Karen Mitchell, program director for Providence Family Medicine Residency in Southfield, says while studies have shown having more family physicians improves the health of a community and lowers overall health care costs, right now there simply aren't enough community-based residency options for graduates.

"The training has happened much more in these academic centers rather than occurring where family medicine is both learned best and delivered best – in community settings," she states.

Michigan currently receives about $1 billion in state and federal funding for graduate medical education programs, most of that through Medicare and Medicaid.

In past years, Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed reducing Medicaid residency funding.

Mitchell says part of the solution should involve increasing STEM programs and opportunities for high school and college students in rural parts of the state.

"The more that students who are coming from those programs are choosing to go into medicine, the more likely they are to go back into some of the communities that need family physicians the most," she stresses.

While many outlying areas are currently experiencing the greatest shortages of primary care physicians, Mitchell notes that all Michigan residents can benefit from the sort of comprehensive approach family medicine offers.

"Having integrated, accessible health care services close by, having a personal physician, a sustained partnership with a physician, those are things that improve health, no matter where someone is," she stresses.

Because of an aging population, retiring physicians and Medicaid and private insurance expansion, Michigan may need 12 percent more primary care physicians by 2030 than it currently has, according to a report by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI