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Hundreds Of New Residencies Planned Could Ease Doctor Shortage In Texas

Lauren Silverman
Kelly Johnson, a medical student at the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, studies for an exam at her home in Fort Worth, Texas, in November 2017.

Texas turns out plenty of medical school graduates, but there are not enough residencies to help retain them, a local doctor says. And that imbalance is contributing to a shortage of physicians in the state.  

That's why Medical City Healthcare, UNT Health Science Center and HCA Healthcare are joining forces to create about 500 new residencies over the next five to seven years. 

Dr. Michael Williams, president of UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth, says burnout and early retirement partly account for a doctor shortage in Texas. But he believes another major reason lies in the training stage. 

“If we don’t have enough residencies and people are leaving the state to get their training, then we’re losing them out of the state for good, probably,” he said.

However, Williams says, Texas will still have a doctor shortage even with these new residencies planned and new medical schools opening soon across the state, as the need for health care continues to increase.

“I think we have to look at the manpower issue as a problem in Texas,” he said.

Interview Highlights: Dr. Michael Williams

About residency programs: It’s the next level of training. We refer to it as undergraduate medical education is medical school, graduate medical education is residency program. Residencies go from, depending on the specialty, three years to seven years. People get to know you. They offer you positions. Fifty percent of those people will stay where they do their residency.

How the lack of residencies has affected Fort Worth: Fort Worth is behind. If you look at the total number of accredited residency programs in Texas, for comparison, Dallas has a little over 20 percent of the total. Tarrant County has less than 2 percent. Because of UT Southwestern Medical Center being longstanding in the history of Dallas, that culture developed here. And the UNT Health Science Center really didn't become an official health science center until '93. 

Why the need for more doctors: Rapid population growth in Texas and an aging population. So there’s more need for health care services. We’re growing in our disparity of health care delivery related to urban and rural areas. I think it’s 35 counties in Texas without a physician — 85 or more counties that have less than five. So the health care delivery is tied to urban areas predominantly, and if you look at the physician population, it’s staying flat or going down. So that’s why we need to develop more residency programs and move that number from 50 percent retention to 80 percent retention.


Interview responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.