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Local News

Tackling Georgia’s Doctor Shortage with Osteopathic Medicine

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Shanteya Hudson, Producer

Thursday, June 22, 2023   

In Georgia, hospital consolidations, coupled with a dwindling workforce of primary-care physicians, has caused growing gaps in access to care for people in many areas of the state.

Osteopathic medicine is on the rise, and it may be one way to address the challenge. Osteopathic doctors are trained to focus on a patient’s lifestyle factors and prevention of disease and injuries.

Dr. Robert Cain, president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, said their schools and residencies are already targeting the needs of rural areas.

“Georgia would need another 700 primary care doctors just to try to eliminate its shortage,” Cain pointed out. “Over time, focused on graduating the right people with those schools located in the right settings, we begin to address that particular shortage.”

Cain noted osteopathic medical students make up 25% of future physicians in the country, with a projection the number will grow to one-third by 2030.

Georgia ranks low when it comes to meeting primary care needs at a statewide level, with only 40% of needs met, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. In addition, one-third of Georgians live in areas with limited primary care access.

Cain stressed recruitment in osteopathic medicine around the country must also continue to be a focus to improve access.

“Our DO schools have shown themselves to be high producers of primary care physicians who stay in the state where they are trained,” Cain asserted. “Our philosophy is sort of draw from the local area, train in the local area, and then try to keep them in the local area.”

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, a 2021 study predicted the U.S. will face a doctor shortage of between 37,000 and 124,000 physicians by 2034. 

This story first appeared in Public News Service, a member-supported news site to engage, educate and advocate for the public interest.