Oklahoma needs more primary and specialty care physicians
The shortage is seen particularly in areas of primary care, but also in areas of specialties, including general surgery, psychiatry and obstetrics/gynecology.
Dr. James Herman, dean at the OU-TU School of Community Medicine
Oklahoma, along with other states, is facing a doctor shortage, according to Dr. James Herman, dean at the OU-TU School of Community Medicine. The shortage is seen particularly in areas of primary care, but also in areas of specialties, including general surgery, psychiatry and obstetrics/gynecology.
“The shortages in primary care mean that many people cannot find access to general care and preventative services,” Herman says. “A robust system of primary care is known to improve almost all health care indices, and the lack of such a system in the United States is a major cause for concern. These shortages are even more of an issue in many rural areas.”
A 2016 report from the United Health Foundation found that Oklahoma’s shortage is one of the worst in the nation. The state has 85 physicians for every 100,000 people, ranking the state 48 out of 50.
Herman says the School of Community Medicine is taking the issue seriously. “We call ourselves a School of Community Medicine because we believe that supplementing the usual medical school curriculum with activities that improve understanding of the social determinants of health is fundamental to producing the types of physicians that our state most needs,” he says.
One example is the Bedlam Clinic, a student-run medical practice that sees the most underserved members of the community.
The school attracts students from Oklahoma and nearby states, Herman says. “They are idealistic yet hard working, serious yet interested in their patients as human beings, and interested in being curers of disease and healers of individuals and families,” he says of OU-TU medical students. “They put in long hours studying as medical students, and even longer hours as residents training in a specialty area after graduating.”