Budget request to correct shortage of physicians
The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education approved a budget request Thursday that will give $500,000 to increase the number of students admitted to the OU College of Medicine, pending approval by the legislature.
Oklahoma ranked as 44th in the U.S. in number of physicians per 100,000 residents in 2010, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. To address this fact, both the OU College of Medicine and OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine increased medical class sizes in 2009.
The OU class size will increase from 165 to 200, and OSU from 88 to 115, pending extra funding, according to the Regents’ agenda.
In the request, called the Oklahoma Healthcare Physician Shortage Initiative, both schools asked for $500,000, as well as a $1 million allotment for two-year health-care programs around the state.
The extra funding should increase the number of students in Oklahoma medical schools and, ideally, those who stay to do residency programs in the state, OU President David Boren said in an email. Almost 80 percent of Oklahoma medical students stay in state to practice as physicians, Boren said.
The Association of American Medical Colleges predicts that the number of students entering medical practice will need to increase by 30 percent to cope with physician shortages and the strain of increased patients with insurance.
The physician shortage problem is only expected to increase in Oklahoma, OU-Tulsa President Dr. Gerry Clancy said. The Patient Protection Act, which will require everyone to purchase health insurance by 2014, is expected to increase the number of insured Oklahomans by 400,000.
“Oklahoma is in the bottom 10 states in virtually every category as far as physicians apply, including doctors per capita, specialists per capita and age of physicians,” Clancy said. “Oklahoma is the most challenged state in meeting the health needs of citizens in the next 10 years.”
OU medical students have the opportunity to study all four years in Oklahoma City or split their time between OKC and Tulsa. The OU Tulsa School of Community Medicine specializes in training physicians for under-served urban and rural areas in the state, Clancy said.
The requested funding will be allocated for building up the Tulsa school and its community outreach programs, according to the agenda.
In the past 25 years, the life expectancy of Tulsa-area residents has increased less than any other Oklahoma region, including a 14-year difference between north and south Tulsa, Clancy said.
The increase of students, as well as a program with the Kaiser Family Foundation that pays students to work in these areas, should increase the number of physicians available throughout the state, especially in underserved areas, Clancy said.
The budget request will now be presented to legislature, which opens Monday.