Many of the nation's taxpayer-funded medical residency programs, most of which are located in urban settings, have come under fire for their failure to expose residents to rural rotations. Even though 20% of Americans live in rural America, a recent study from George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services found that only 4.8% of new physicians said they planned to establish a practice in a rural area.
The GW study examined the career paths of 8,977 physicians who had graduated from 759 medical residency sites from 2006 to 2008. The researchers found that 198 of 759 institutions produced no rural physicians during the study period. And 283 institutions graduated no doctors practicing in the Federally Qualified Health Centers that serve low-income or destitute patients in underserved urban and rural areas.
Deveney says the nation's residency programs are creating "such a geographic mal-distribution that the urban areas are saturated and the competition of specialists in urban areas is fierce."
"It's counterproductive, particularly in Midwestern and Western states where there is a large expanse of rural towns and people. The urban programs really need to pay attention to the needs of their state. That is kind of why they were set up in the first place," she says.