Today, the Oklahoma Legislature approved and sent to Gov. Mary Fallin the Oklahoma Hospital Residency Training Program Act, which provides $3.08 million to create physician residency programs in rural areas of the state to train the next generation of rural doctors.
Medical residency programs are post medical school graduate training. Such programs are the next step for medical school graduates and are typically more specialty focused than medical school. These newly graduated doctors work directly with patients under the supervision of a fully licensed physician.
“I want to express Oklahoma State University’s appreciation for the leadership shown by Gov. Fallin, who first made this a priority in her State of the State address in February,” said OSU President Burns Hargis. “I would also like to thank the legislature, including Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman and Speaker Kris Steele, both of whom carried parts of this bill. Passage would not have happened without their efforts."
Hargis also said OSU is striving to be America’s healthiest campuses and help Oklahoma become the healthiest state.
Oklahoma is in a worsening physician shortage and continues to rank among the highest in the nation in poor health markers such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Rural areas of the state and underserved pockets of urban Oklahoma are the hardest hit. Oklahoma’s medical future is equally dim. A medical journal recently listed Oklahoma as one of America’s most healthcare- access challenged states due primarily to the lack of physicians and doctors in training.
Medically underserved areas are identified as having too few primary care providers, high infant mortality rates, a large population of elderly people and high poverty levels.
“We at the OSU Center for Health Sciences and the College of Osteopathic Medicine are grateful for the governor’s and legislative leadership’s support of this bill, which will significantly impact Oklahoma’s poor health outcomes for rural and underserved areas,” said Howard Barnett, Jr., president of OSU-Tulsa and OSU Center for Health Sciences. “We are already working to set up the residencies that can be funded through this important legislation.”
The new Oklahoma Hospital Residency Training Program Act allows the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to contract with the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine and the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine to set up and operate new physician residency education programs in medically underserved areas.
“One of the key reasons for our health problems is the shortage of primary care doctors in rural Oklahoma,” said Dr. Kayse Shrum, provost of the OSU Center for Health Sciences and dean of the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine. “Research shows that doctors tend to practice in the area where they do their residency training. By providing funding for primary care residencies in rural areas of the state, we can all but assure that we will have more doctors practicing in rural Oklahoma.”
At the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine, more than 80 percent of the students who attend the Tulsa medical school and complete their residency in Oklahoma go on to practice medicine in Oklahoma.
The physician residency bill was approved with an emergency clause and will go into effect July 1, 2012.