- Associated Press - Sunday, August 21, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Colleges of Health Education is preparing to open its first medical program at a time when the state faces a shortage of doctors, especially primary care doctors in rural areas.

The private Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Smith is to open in August 2017 with a class of 150, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Sunday (https://bit.ly/2bnnP1X ).

Arkansas ranks 46th in the nation in the number of doctors per capita, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. And as current doctors grow older, that problem is likely to get worse, said Kyle Parker, chief executive officer of the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education.

Arkansas had about 5,800 physicians in 2014, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Three out of every 10 of those doctors were at least 60 years old. Only about half that number were younger than 40.

“We are reaching a tipping point,” Parker said.



While older doctors near retirement, demand for medical staff members grows, creating a gap that’s already evident in western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma, he said. More doctors are needed to meet the state’s demands.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock graduates about 150 medical students per year, the school said. Earlier this month, the New York Institute of Technology welcomed 120 students for its first osteopathic medicine class in Jonesboro.

By the time the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education graduates its first class in 2021, the number of medical students graduating in Arkansas could be about three times this year’s number.

That growth doesn’t guarantee a corresponding surge of Arkansas doctors, though, said Dr. Richard Wheeler, executive associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Medicine at UAMS. That’s because those students can’t get medical licenses until they’ve completed years of hospital residencies. And that, Wheeler said, remains a bottleneck.

“We could turn out an infinite number of medical students,” he said. “But if they can’t get into a residency, then they can’t eventually get a license, and they can’t practice.”

___

Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide