A Publication of WTVP

UICOMP is among the top producers of primary care graduates, but the national shortage continues.

There continues to be a growing shortage of primary care physicians in this country. A November 17th Wall Street Journal article, referencing data from the Association of American Medical Colleges, noted the U.S. would require more than 65,000 additional primary care physicians—and 90,000 doctors across all fields, including subspecialties—over the next 10 years. This shortage reflects growing demand due to a larger aging population suffering from an increased number of chronic diseases. It also reflects declining interest in careers in primary care on the part of medical students and residents. UICOMP is proud of all of our residents and fellows, but are we training the primary care physicians who will help fill this physician shortage?

During medical training, physicians-to-be spend four years as a medical student, followed by three to eight years as a resident, sometimes followed by additional years as a fellow before entering medical practice. Students and residents who have strong primary care role models and are integrated into community practices are more likely to select primary care as a career.

UICOMP works with its major academic affiliate hospitals, OSF Saint Francis Medical Center and UnityPoint Health — Methodist, to train a total of 260 residents and fellows, and the graduates of these programs often stay here in central Illinois. In fact, about 60 percent of the primary care providers in Peoria trained in a UICOMP-sponsored program.

At the national level, the success of UICOMP’s primary care residencies was recently recognized in a research paper published in the September 2013 issue of Academic Medicine. UICOMP-sponsored residency programs at OSF and Methodist ranked 11th among 161 academic training programs, according to the percentage of graduating residents who went into primary care. This is a tremendous accomplishment—helping to meet a national need and fulfilling one of the purposes for which UICOMP was created.

Although we are justifiably proud of our primary care training, we are also proud of our subspecialty residencies and fellowships. We train physicians in diverse specialties from pediatrics to geriatrics, and following graduation, some of these subspecialty-trained physicians also stay to practice in central Illinois. In addition, the opportunity to teach residents and fellows attracts talented physicians from across the country to work at our academic hospital partners.

Of course, UICOMP’s performance is measured in more ways than the number of physicians trained. Patients also deserve a physician who combines medical knowledge with excellent communication skills, compassion and teamwork. We are continually redesigning our educational programs so our graduates are prepared to practice exceptional, comprehensive patient care when they enter the rapidly-changing healthcare system. The new Jump Trading Simulation and Education Center has been a welcome addition to our educational programs, providing a variety of unique learning options.

Physicians are just one member of a much larger healthcare team that includes APNs, PAs, nurses and many others. However, the physician education provided by the College of Medicine has a profound impact on our community, as witnessed by the great healthcare enjoyed by the patients of central Illinois. iBi