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More physicians needed in the state of Mississippi

Austin McAfee / The Daily Mississippian

 

As one of the most medically underserved states in the country, Mississippi has 8.3 doctors per 10,000 residents, compared to the national average of 12.8 physicians per 10,000 residents. It must add 1,330 primary care physicians to its health care system to meet the national average of doctor count per capita. 

House Public Health Chair Sam C. Mims V recently authored House Bill 317, which will create a program to retain more primary care physicians in Mississippi. The bill will allow rural Mississippians to have more local, primary care physicians, so they will not have to travel to larger cities for medical needs. Mims worked closely with Mississippi physicians and Dr. Luke Lampton, chairman of the Mississippi State Board of Health, on the legislation. 

Last Tuesday, Phil Bryant signed House Bill 317 into law. The new law seeks to establish the Office of Mississippi Physician Workforce within the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) for the purpose of increasing the family pediatrician workforce within Mississippi.

According to studies conducted by UMMC, 50 percent of its graduates who leave Mississippi for residency never return to the state to practice; however, 75 to 80 percent of those who stay at UMMC for their residency go on to practice in Mississippi. Mims stated that the new legislature will create more residency programs in rural Mississippi. 

The state financial support will be used to fund hospitals that will host the new family medicine residency programs in Mississippi. The bill says there will be 42 state financial rewards to 43 new primary residence programs. 

Mims believe that the new legislation will not only make physicians more accessible, it will bring “dozens of jobs and millions in revenue” to the rural areas. Gov. Bryant echoes Mims’ enthusiasm on the House Bill 317. 

“I signed legislation that furthers my health care initiatives,” Gov. Bryant says, “In my inaugural address, I explained the need for Mississippi to add 1,000 physicians to its workforce by the year 2025. Expanding our state’s medical residency programs will directly increase the number of physicians who remain in Mississippi to practice. We know that new doctors generate about $2 million in economic impact in their communities, and more doctors means better health care for our citizens.” 

The new Office of Physician Workforce will be established at UMMC. It should be in operation within 2013 or 2014 at the latest. The office’s purposes will be overseeing the physician workforce development in the state and administrating state financial support to the hospitals hosting the residency training programs. 

“Our state continues to trail the rest of the nation in the numbers of physicians per capita,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, associate vice chancellor for Health Affairs and vice dean of the School of Medicine. “At UMMC we are working hard to produce more highly trained physicians for Mississippi, and this office will be an asset in helping us to better understand our physician workforce needs and ultimately to get doctors where they are most needed in our state.” 

Nicholas Boullard, sophomore pre-med student, plans on practicing primary health care within Mississippi. He is a recipient of the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship (MRPS), which is a program created in 2007 that helps aspiring college students practice medicine within their local towns in Mississippi. It was created to address the challenge of Mississippi’s health care crisis. 

Boullard feels that Mississippi is in a need of local physicians. 

“I think more residence practice in Mississippi is necessary because there are certain counties in this state that have no health professionals at all,” Boullard said. “In fact, some parents have to drive their kids nearly two hours just to get medicine for flu or a cold.” 

Mims said the new health care law could add to the well-being of Mississippi; not only will rural citizens have access to local doctors, the doctors can bring revenue to their towns. 

“This is an important step in improving Mississippi’s health,” Mims said. “And bottom line, it is truly a win-win.”