Oklahoma lawmaker: State should target the Kevin Durants of medicine

Published: March 2, 2014
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Health care has become a complicated topic, but one aspect of access to care that state lawmakers should address is the shortage of medical specialists in Oklahoma. With more specialty doctors, the state could better serve the unique medical needs of all Oklahomans.

The perfect tool already exists to attract these specialists to the state. The Oklahoma Quick Action Closing Fund has successfully been used to attract a Macy’s distribution center to Tulsa. This same fund could be used to attract what I’d call the Kevin Durants of medicine.

Durant, despite playing in a smaller media market, is a national star because of his considerable abilities. Oklahoma is drawing interest from around the country because of its professional basketball team. The state and local leaders who worked together to recruit the team made a slam dunk.

Big stars also exist in the field of medicine. Right now, when your loved one is sick from a life-threatening illness, specialty hospitals around the country are what come to mind first. For example, the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and St. Jude’s Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., are sought after nationally by families afflicted by cancer. These hospitals are a tremendous resource for those families and huge drivers of economic activity in their communities, just like the Oklahoma City Thunder is in Oklahoma City.

Too often, the first hospitals that come to mind nationally are not the hospitals here in Oklahoma. Yet the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metropolitan areas are home to fine hospitals. However, the state needs nationally sought-after specialists to create first-class health care communities. Instead we have severe shortages, particularly in the area of pediatric specialties. Fewer than 20 pediatric psychiatrists practice in Oklahoma and not one board-certified pediatric rheumatologist.