Let’s talk about rural health. One in five Americans live in a rural area. Disparities between health outcomes and rural residents continue to grow (more on rural health disparities).
In Minnesota, we know that family physicians are THE doctors taking care of our rural communities. More than 50% of physicians practicing in small, rural communities AND more than 66% of physicians practicing in isolated areas are family doctors (2017 Overview of the Physician Workforce, Minnesota Department of Health).
Despite being the specialty that largely fills this need across rural Minnesota, our state has lost five family medicine residency training slots over the past 15 years. Minnesota’s family medicine residency programs work hard to train the next generation of doctors to practice full spectrum family medicine, preparing them to care for ALL patients, from birth to death, while also urging them to consider practice in rural, underserved communities. But, MORE support is needed in training, recruitment and beyond.
Minnesota also has renowned medical student programming driving students to choose family medicine (and primary care). The University of Minnesota Rural Physician Associate Program offers medical students a longitudinal immersion in rural primary care. More than 1,500 students have participated in the program; two out of three alumni currently practice in Minnesota, over 40% practice in rural locations and 75% in primary care. The University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth campus, trains students in their first two years of medical school, with a focus on serving rural and Native American communities. Their admissions process, culture and programming have resulted in about 50% of graduates going into family medicine, with more than 30% going rural. We are encouraged by their incredible work and successes, but still MORE support is needed in drawing students to our specialty.
We, at the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians (MAFP) and American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), are working to shine light on the opportunity to provide innovative training programs and partnerships to train more family medicine residents in rural, underserved communities.
This summer, the AAFP launched a new initiative—Rural Health Matters—fueled by the commitment to improve rural health care access, quality and outcomes.
AAFP RURAL HEALTH MATTERS OBJECTIVES:
- Develop and implement an integrated AAFP rural strategy.
- Establish the AAFP as a leader for rural health and rural physicians.
- Influence policy and payment issues related to rural health.
- Address educational needs and resources for family physicians currently practicing in rural areas.
- Support recruitment of family physicians to rural areas, including student choice, increase in residency positions and support of residency programs.
- Create policy, collaboration, and resources for family physicians to improve rural health disparities.
- More about Rural Health Matters.
At MAFP, we want to ensure that Minnesota is encouraging the training of the right mix of primary care and other specialties to meet the diverse needs of our state.
Want to join Minnesota’s advocacy efforts around rural health? Contact Jami Burbidge, MAM, our director for advocacy and engagement.
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- Jami Burbidge, MAM, director of advocacy & engagement, @jami_burbidge
- Emie Buege, communications