A new bill aims to refurbish the ailing image of the American primary care physician by reallocating qualified PCP medical students to various underserved communities often overlooked at the nation’s roots.[See also: Foreign medical graduates formidable allies when fighting physician shortage]
Introduced by Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., the legislation titled “Restoring the Doctors of Our Country Through Scholarships” or RDOCS Act for short, would launch a state-based scholarship program for those PCP students who agree to practice in underserved areas for at least five years post-residency. Scholarship options would also be permissible for students enrolled in six-year accelerated family medicine programs and other curricula stipulating service in areas lacking sufficient medical outlets.
McDermott introduced the bill as such: "Of all of the challenges facing the nation's healthcare system, perhaps the most neglected is the gaping hole in our workforce of primary care physicians. One estimate projects a shortage of 45,000 primary care doctors by 2020. This bill will go a long way toward addressing that shortage, improving health outcomes and reducing the nation's healthcare costs."
The RDOCS Act would rely primarily on funding from the federal government, but states would oversee the distribution of awards/grants to students who are either participating in their state-run medical school or who are involved in a neighboring state’s medical program if their home states do not have one. Recipients of the scholarships — who are, upon their acceptance, known as RDOCS officers — will remain in their state of residence for their five-year term, with all medical tuition and costs covered by the bill.[See also: Program rewards med students who commit to serving in primary care shortage areas]
Passage of the measure and immediate, full funding thereafter, could mean that the first 4,000 PCP students involved in the program would graduate by 2020; McDermott and other program framers hope to graduate 20,000 PCPs by 2024.
The American Academy of Family Physician’s Commission on Governmental Advocacy is anticipated to consider the RDOCS Act early in 2013 and hand down its recommendation to the AAFP Board soon after.
"Although the AAFP has not yet taken a formal position, there is much to like about Rep. McDermott's bill," AAFP President Glen Stream, MD, MBI, of Spokane, Wash., said in a news release. "It recognizes the critical importance of primary care, addresses the worsening shortage of primary care physicians, and provides a means for those interested in a primary care career to overcome the medical education debt barrier that all too often stands in their way."Find more on the RDOCS Act — shaped after the National Health Service Corps scholarship program — here. [See also: Making community connectivity a reality]