In “Shortage of physicians is a growing concern” (Our Views, Dec. 15), Oklahoma's poor health ranking and its shortage of rural health physicians got some much-needed attention. A recent study of the country's healthiest states revealed that Oklahoma is among the nation's worst. The state is now ranked 48 out of 50 in this category, and the issue of our health has taken on a new urgency.
The lack of nearby primary care physicians and access to prenatal care are just two of the major factors that influenced our state's lower rating. We need more physicians, particularly primary care physicians, if we're going to improve the health of Oklahoma. One of the most immediate steps we can take to reverse this shortage of physicians is to increase the number of residency positions at rural hospitals. Many physicians settle in the community where they did their residency. Without enough residencies available, our state's newly trained medical students will continue to move to neighboring states to practice medicine.
At OSU, we're proposing the Legislature provide funding for residencies in rural and underserved areas. Such a financial commitment will not only make Oklahoma a primary option for more of our medical students, but also create the groundwork for additional private endowment funds for the program. This is about the health of Oklahomans, and it's time to take responsibility for our least served among us.
Howard G. Barnett, Jr., Tulsa
Barnett is president of OSU-Tulsa and the OSU Center for Health Sciences.