New bill will send more doctors to rural communities

TULSA - There are not enough doctors in Oklahoma and those currently practicing medicine are close to retirement age says OSU Doctor Kayse Shrum, Provost and Center for Health Sciences Dean. Shrum says a recently signed bill will help with the shortage of primary physicians in rural and underserved communities.

"It's significant and historical for the state of Oklahoma," Shurm said.

Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill into law Wednesday, providing $3.8 million dollars to send more doctors into rural counties. Shrum says currently 67 out of the 77 counties in the state are experiencing a shortage in doctors. An OSU study showed there was less than one doctor for every 3,500 people in a county. Oklahoma was ranked 48th in the nation in overall health in a study by the United Health Foundation.

"We know physicians will practice within 100 miles of where they graduated or trained for their residency program," Shrum said.

She hopes that sending doctors to those rural areas will ensure they stay in those communities once they graduate.

Second year medical student Jake Whitener is from a small town himself, he's seen first hand the need for this program. "Hopefully one day I can apply for one of these residencies and serve those counties," he said.

The bill goes into law in July but it's going to take about a year for medical schools to team up with area hospitals to have those rural clinics in place and send the doctors in.

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