Producing Doctors for Rural America Should Be a Priority
SALINA, Kan. — The University of Kansas School of Medicine-Salina opened in 2011 — a one-building campus in the heart of wheat country dedicated to producing the rural doctors the country needs.
Now, eight years later, the school’s first graduates are settling into their chosen practices — and locales. And those choices are cause for both hope and despair.
Of the eight graduates, just three chose to go where the shortages are most evident. Two went to small cities with populations of fewer than 50,000. And three chose the big cities of Topeka (estimated 2018 population: 125,904) and Wichita (389,255) instead.
Their decisions illustrate the challenges facing rural recruitment: the lack of small-town residencies, the preferences of spouses and the isolation that comes with practicing medicine on one’s own.
But the mission is critical: About two-thirds of the primary care health professional shortage areas designated by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration in June were in rural or partially rural areas. And it’s only getting worse.