The University of Rochester Family Medicine residency program was awarded a $1.9 million federal grant, which will add two positions per year for the next five years, in response to a critical shortage of primary care physicians locally and nationally.
Investing in the primary care workforce is one of the key elements of health care reform. By expanding training programs and making them more attractive to medical students, government and health officials hope to dramatically increase the numbers of new physicians entering the primary care field, which includes family medicine and general internal medicine.
The UR School of Medicine and Dentistry is the major source of primary care physicians in the Rochester region, said Thomas L. Campbell, M.D., the William Rocktaschel Professor and Chair, Department of Family Medicine, and associate director, Center for Primary Care at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
The grant will fund 12 medical residents per year instead of 10. In the past decade approximately 300 family physicians have graduated from the UR, with about half remaining in the Rochester area, Campbell said.
“We are very pleased to be an important part of this effort to train more family physicians for the Rochester community,” Campbell said.
Currently, half of the primary care practices in the Rochester region are too full to accept new patients. The problem is expected to worsen as the population ages and universal health coverage becomes effective in 2014.
Family medicine physicians emphasize disease prevention and management of chronic illnesses. They treat people of all ages, including multiple generations of families, recognizing that family dynamics often play a large role in health behaviors such as smoking, drinking alcohol, exercising, and eating. Under health care reform, it is expected that health systems will rely more heavily on primary care and family physicians and their ability to manage a host of complex medical conditions among their patients.
This fall the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded $320 million in new grants under the Affordable Care Act to strengthen the health care workforce. Of those, $253 million are to be used to build the primary care network and provide community-based prevention of illness and disease. The UR Family Medicine residency program was one of 82 accredited programs that received an award. By 2015 it is expected that 889 new primary care residents nationwide will be in training due to the HHS funding.
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