Initiative aims to add doctors in rural Oklahoma

An initiative designed to combat a shortage of doctors in rural Oklahoma is headed to the state Legislature. The Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education approved a budget request Thursday that would fund the Oklahoma Healthcare Physician Shortage Initiative.
BY SILAS ALLEN sallen@opubco.com Published: January 27, 2012
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An initiative designed to combat a shortage of doctors in rural Oklahoma is headed to the state Legislature.

The Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education approved a budget request Thursday that would fund the Oklahoma Healthcare Physician Shortage Initiative.

The funding request would give $1 million each to the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine and Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, as well as $2 million to regional and community colleges to help increase the number of medical school students. The regents' office will submit the request to the Legislature for consideration.

America's Health Rankings for 2011 places Oklahoma at No. 48, two spots lower than the previous year. Only Mississippi and Louisiana fell behind Oklahoma in the rankings, which are released annually by the United Health Foundation.

The rankings cite a high prevalence of smoking and obesity, limited availability of primary care doctors and low use of prenatal care in the state.

Additionally, a New England Journal of Medicine article ranks Oklahoma as the state that faces the most challenges in meeting medical needs. That ranking is based on the ratio of Medicaid expansion to primary care capacity.

According to the article, Oklahoma is expected to see a large expansion in the Medicaid population as the federal health care law takes effect. But Oklahoma doesn't have the primary care capacity to deal with those newly insured patients. Without outside efforts, the demand for medical care could outstrip the supply of providers in the state.

Officials from OU and OSU outlined their plans to combat the problem at the board's meeting last month. They expressed concern over a shrinking supply of doctors in rural Oklahoma.

During the December meeting, OU President David Boren and Gerry Clancy, president of OU-Tulsa, told the board they're working to expand the Tulsa-based OU School of Community Medicine. Clancy, dean of the school, said the program is a partnership between OU and the University of Tulsa.



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