Shortage of family medicine doctors in Michigan leads to lack of access to primary care

Are you concerned about accessing primary care in Michigan? You're not alone.
Are you concerned about accessing primary care in Michigan? You're not alone.(WILX)
Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 8:22 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Michigan is already feeling the effects of the nationwide shortage of primary care physicians, with over 20% of adults and 8% of children in the state lacking access to primary care.

According to Dr. Glen Dregansky, a family physician at the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians, less than 10% of new medical students are choosing to pursue family medicine

“And there are very complex reasons for that,” Dregansky said. “When you talk to the students who are coming out of school with huge amounts of educational debt, they’ll point out the fact that family physicians are among the lowest reimbursed physicians in the country.”

Dregansky suggests that increasing state funding and implementing student loan repayment programs could encourage more medical students to go into family medicine.

Dr. Douglas Edema, President of Sparrow Medical Group’s Physician Practices, adds that recruitment teams have had more success in training and retaining doctors who specialize in pediatric care.

“And we actually contract with our first year to help support them as they get through their residency with the idea that when they graduate then they’ll join us,” Edema said.

However, attracting doctors who only see adult patients has proven to be more difficult, as many internal medicine residents prefer to pursue a specialty rather than general internal medicine.

“Either cardiology or nephrology or one of the -ologies as opposed to general internal medicine,” Edema said.

“And that trend has continued to the point now where we graduate far more proceduralist than a generalist,” Dregansky said. “Society needs generalists. Our whole health care system is founded on everyone having a primary care provider, a physician.”

The shortage of primary care physicians is expected to worsen throughout the United States, with a projected deficit of more than 37,000 primary care physicians within the next 12 years. The problem is due to growing and aging populations, as well as aging physicians. The states expected to be hit the hardest include California, Florida, and Texas. The National Institutes of Health recommends connecting with medical students early on to address the shortage and ensure access to primary care physicians for all.

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