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Legislation to Address Doctor Shortages and Train Next Generation of Physicians Introduced by Senators Collins, Tester

Washington, D.C. - In response to the severe shortage of physicians that has reached crisis levels in a growing number of communities across the United States, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced the Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act.  Their bipartisan bill would address this issue by bolstering the successful Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education Program, which trains physicians in underserved, community-based settings. The legislation is also cosponsored by Senators Doug Jones (D-AL), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Joe Manchin (D-WV), John Boozman (R-AR), and Kamala Harris (D-CA).


“In clinics and health centers in Aroostook County, Maine’s northernmost county where I grew up, I frequently hear stories about the severe shortage of physicians forcing Mainers to travel many miles simply to seek medical care,” said Senator Collins.  “For the past eight years, one program, the Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education Program, has worked to fill these gaps.  In the face of nationwide physician shortages, our legislation would strengthen this important program, providing a solution for communities today and a path forward to train the physicians of tomorrow.  I urge all of my colleagues to join us in support of this important legislation.”


“The doctor shortage in rural America threatens the future of frontier communities in Montana,” Senator Tester said. “If we want more doctors to practice in rural areas, we need to train them in rural areas—and this bill will help build a stronger pipeline of medical residents from universities to our rural hospitals.”


“Teaching health center programs, like the Cahaba Family Medicine Residency in Alabama, have shown that by training physicians in rural and underserved communities we can increase the number of graduates who choose to practice in areas where health care needs are the greatest,” said Senator Jones.  “This legislation will help alleviate the urgent challenge of physician shortages in rural and underserved areas in Alabama and across the country. I’m proud to partner with Senator Collins to introduce this legislation to better serve our rural communities.”


By 2030, the United States is projected to need 120,000 physicians to meet the growing demand for health care services across the country.  Since its inception in 2011, the Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education Program has worked to fill this gap. The program helps to train medical residents in community-based settings, including low-income, underserved rural and urban neighborhoods.


Nationwide, this program has produced real results.  Since the program began, 632 new primary care physicians and dentists have graduated and entered the workforce, and the number of Americans served is in the millions.  Since 2011, the Penobscot Community Health Care Center in Bangor, Maine, has trained 34 residents and served more than 15,000 dental patients.  Residents who train at teaching health centers are significantly more likely to remain in rural or underserved communities.


The Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act would reauthorize the Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education Program for $647.5 million over five years to support residency programs spanning across the United States. It would also authorize a total of $60 million over five years to create new Teaching Health Centers and allow existing Teaching Health Centers to expand and provide new services—such as psychiatry and dentistry—to meet the growing need for community health care. 


The Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act has gained support from numerous physician and medical education associations, including:


·         The American Association of Teaching Health Centers;

·         The National Association of Community Health Centers;

·         The American Academy of Family Physicians;

·         The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine; and

·         The Council of Academic Family Medicine. 


"The Council of Academic Family Medicine applauds the efforts of Senators Collins, Tester, Capito, Jones and Boozman in introducing bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Teaching Health Center graduate medical education program. This unique program has been critical to addressing primary care workforce shortages and physician maldistribution and we are grateful for your vigorous support for the sustainability and growth of the program," said Karen Mitchell, MD, Chair, Council of Academic Family Medicine


"Teaching health centers are the cornerstone of a successful initiative to recruit medical students into primary care specialties and careers in providing care to underserved Americans,” said John Cullen, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “Research has consistently shown that the THCGME program is producing the physicians it was designed to deliver, with more than 90 percent of graduates intending to work in primary care and more than three out of four in underserved communities. We endorse the Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act of 2019 and we applaud Senators Collins, Tester, Capito, Jones, and Boozman for their bipartisan approach to providing medical care to Americans, no matter where they live."


"The five-year reauthorization and expansion of the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) Program is a critical step in providing healthcare to our citizens in rural areas, and I commend Senators Collins for her steadfast leadership on this important issue,” said Jane Carreiro, DO, Vice President for Health Affairs and Dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, University of New England. “It is well known that physicians, dentists, and other healthcare providers practice where they are trained. Providing training opportunities in underserved communities through the THCGME Program is an effective way to assure that people living in rural Maine and the millions of others living in underserved communities across America have access to the healthcare they need."


“The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine commends Senators Collins, Tester, Capito, Jones, and Boozman’s bipartisan commitment to support our nation’s patient populations that struggle to access medical care,” said Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH, President and CEO. “The association proudly endorses the Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act of 2019, which sustains and grows this important program, addressing our nation’s critical need to have a strong and robust primary care workforce.  The THCGME Program has an impressive track record of recruiting and retaining physicians in geographic areas where patient access issues are most acute.”

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