The Pryor Times

June 11, 2012

Law provides funds to increase number of state physicians


— OKLAHOMA CITY— Gov. Mary Fallin has signed the Oklahoma Hospital Residency Training Program Act as part of the effort to bring more primary care physicians to rural and underserved areas of Oklahoma. The new law will provide $3.08 million to create physician residency programs to bring a new generation of doctors to medically underserved communities across the state.

Burns Hargis, OSU president, Howard Barnett, president of OSU-Tulsa and OSU Center for Health Sciences, Dr. Kayse Shrum, OSU-CHS provost and dean of the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine, and OSU medical school students joined Fallin and key legislators in a signing ceremony at the capitol earlier today.

 “We commend Gov. Fallin and the Oklahoma Legislature for their leadership on this critical issue,” said Hargis. “The OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine is committed to providing vital healthcare services to rural and medically underserved areas of Oklahoma. OSU is serious about having America’s healthiest campuses and helping Oklahoma become the healthiest state.” 

 The Oklahoma Hospital Residency Training Program Act allows the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to contract with the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine and the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine to set up and operate new physician residency programs in medically underserved areas.

“Gov. Fallin and the Oklahoma Legislature have recognized the critical physician shortage we face in Oklahoma and put this law on an emergency track,” said Barnett. “The residency law will go into effect on July 1 and we have already begun creating the strategic framework for these new programs.”

Medical residency programs are post medical school graduate training. These programs are the next step for medical school graduates and are typically more focused than medical school. These newly graduated doctors work directly with patients under the supervision of a fully licensed physician.

“Approximately 80 percent of the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine students who finish residency programs in Oklahoma establish their medical practices near the area where they complete their training,” said Shrum. “In selecting medical residency locations to be funded under this law, we are looking to place programs in strategic areas that will most benefit rural and underserved areas of Oklahoma. Data shows that physicians typically stay within 100 miles of the community where they completed their residency program.”

Oklahoma is experiencing a physician shortage and ranks among the worst in the nation for poor health markers, such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Rural and underserved areas of Oklahoma are hardest hit by these health issues. The low number of current physicians, a high percentage of aging physicians and lack of medical students in primary care training make Oklahoma one of America’s most challenged states when it comes to access to healthcare.

Medically underserved areas are identified as having too few primary care providers, high infant mortality rates, a large population of elderly people and high poverty levels.