Puerto Rican Medical Schools Aim to Fix the Physician Shortage in the U.S.
Posted By Abby Perkins on June 16, 2015 at 8:28 am
According to a study published in Academic Medicine in January, the Latino and Hispanic population in the United States grew 243% from 1980 to 2010, from 15 million to more than 51 million. In 1980, there were 135 Latino doctors for every 100,000 Latinos in the U.S. By 2010, there were 105. With the Affordable Care Act providing more access to medical coverage for Latinos and other minorities, the deficit in bilingual and bi-cultural physicians is more pronounced than ever.
An innovative alliance
In order to increase the number of Hispanic physicians in the U.S., Ponce Health Sciences University in Puerto Rico and University Ventures announced on June 2 that they are partnering in an effort to increase the number of graduates from the Ponce program who move on to medical residency programs. Ponce is one of only 141 medical schools accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, and the first and only for-profit medical school in the U.S. with this gold standard accreditation that ensures the quality of a medical education program. (LCME is affiliated with the American Medical Association).
University Ventures, located in New York City, is an investment fund with a primary focus on innovative higher education programs and services. According to its website, the company typically partners with “companies involved in delivering programs, products or services that dramatically improve the accessibility and affordability of higher education [and] companies involved in delivering high-value programs, products or services that provide a clear and indisputable return on investment to students.”
One of the partnership’s strategies involves establishing relationships between U.S. hospitals and Ponce Health Sciences University, making hospitals aware of the high caliber of education offered at the Puerto Rico institution in hopes of widening access to university residence programs. Tangible results of the alliance involve equipping students with technological support during their studies, like iPads, and establishing research labs for cancer studies.
U.S. physician shortages by 2025
A 2015 study conducted on behalf of the Association of American Medical Colleges predicted that by 2025, the U.S. will experience a shortage of between 46,000 and 90,000 physicians – 31,000 of those from the primary care field. Medical and surgical subspecialists will be underrepresented by approximately 64,000 physicians. The growth of residency positions has been limited in recent decades by a cap on federally funded residency training positions.
While proposed legislation would increase the number of federally funded residency slots, it can take up to 10 years to train a physician, and many in the field are concerned that the changes won’t come fast enough. The elderly population in the U.S. continues to expand, thanks to increased life expectancy and better health care. While medical schools are seeing record numbers of applicants, the required residency programs are not available in large enough numbers to keep pace because of the cap on federal support for teacher training at hospitals.