A recent study finds the united states could face a shortage of physicians by the year 2025. Nationwide, we're looking at a shortage of 125,000 to 160,000 physicians.
In Alabama, rural areas will be hit hard by the shortage. The University of Alabama at Birmingham's School of Medicine expects a new campus in Montgomery to be part of the solution.
"This is part of the strategic plan of the school of medicine to enhance the delivery of primary care, particularly in the under served areas of Alabama," said Wick Many, M.D.
Many will serve as regional dean on the Montgomery campus of the school of medicine. It opens in 2014. The new campus is expected to produce physicians for communities of central Alabama.
He says the campus is crucial for the state because there is already a significant shortage of physicians, and a disparity in distribution.
"In the larger metropolitan areas there are typically adequate number of physicians for a patient to access. But as you move into the smaller cities and the smaller communities, there are many counties in Alabama that have but one physician for the entire county," he said.
So why is this such a widespread problem? part of the answer can be found in the classrooms of medical schools across the nation. Many students would rather become specialty doctors than primary physicians.
The number of graduates choosing a career in family medicine dropped by 27 percent from 2002 to 2007.
Also a challenge is the nation's longer-living population.
"This will be a major crisis that the entire population will face as we move forward into the next decade. There will be hospitals that will close. There will be longer waits. The over all cost of healthcare will increase," said Many.
Some central Alabama communities will provide young physicians with opportunities to enter into private practices and have loan forgiveness or other types of payback that will allow them to reduce their debt.