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Health Segment: Baylor & Texas A&M Join Forces To Address Physician Shortage

By Sam Baker, KERA Morning Edition Host

Dallas, TX –

Baylor Medical Center at Dallas and Texas A&M Health Science Center have joined forces to establish a clinical training program in Dallas. The program will expand medical opportunities in North Texas. Dr. Cristie Columbus at Baylor told KERA's Sam Baker the program she'll lead also will help address a growing shortage of doctors.

Dr. Columbus: American Association of Medical Colleges is projecting a nationwide physician shortage of 63,000 physicians by 2015, approximately 90,000 physicians by 2020, and anywhere between 130,000 and 160,000 physicians in 2025. Texas ranks 42nd out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of numbers of physicians per 100,000 in population, so there's a shortage there as well. This will be exacerbated by health care reform laws that will be enacted in 2014.

Sam: How exactly does health care reform exacerbate the situation?

Dr. Columbus: It will open up uninsured people to having some degree of insurance, and that will increase their access to care.

Sam: More people needing access to health care, so you'll need more people to deal with them.

Dr. Columbus: Correct.

Sam: How did we get to this point?

Dr. Columbus: Probably it is a reflection of aging of the population, the baby boomers getting to the age where they will need increasing levels of medical care.

Sam: Is what you're saying it's not shortage of interest in medicine, the population's just growing too fast?

Dr. Columbus: It may be a combination. There remains an interest in medicine as a career. I think that is why the state has expanded medical school enrollment slots. But physicians graduate with a great deal of debt and that may have had some influence on interest in going into the profession. But probably the main driver is the aging population.

Sam: Are we talking about physicians across the board, or are we talking about specific areas?

Dr. Columbus: Highest projection of shortage is in primary care, which in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics. However, there are also projected shortages in things like emergency medicine, in cardiology and oncology as the population ages.

Sam: The clinical training program we've got now as a result of this collaboration with A&M, what aspect of this shortage will it address?

Dr. Columbus: There are some data that indicate that physicians tend to stay and practice in the area in which they trained. And so this is an investment in the health care for not only the state of Texas, but also in the North Texas area.

Sam: Before, they were training where?

Dr. Columbus: The first two years are in Bryan-College Station or at Scott & White in Temple, and the clinical training occurs at Bryan-College Station, in Temple, in Round Rock and then we will be the fourth clinical training site. Texas A&M Health Science Center's College of Medicine has strategically placed their campuses to be able to deploy physicians throughout the state.

Sam: How did this collaboration come about?

Dr. Columbus: Well, Texas A&M Health Science Center has a college of dentistry at Baylor. And it was a logical expansion to take advantage of infrastructure.

Sam: So a way to expand the program without having to build a whole new campus.

Dr. Columbus: Exactly.

Dr. Cristie Columbus of Baylor Medical Center at Dallas. The Clinical Training Program in Dallas will welcome its first 23 students in December.

For more information:

Texas A&M Health Science Center:

Baylor Medical Center at Dallas: