Family Doctor Shortage Predicted

The American Academy of Family Physicians is expecting a serious shortfall of family physicians in Texas and at least four other states by the year 2020.   Nacogdoches family physician Dr. W.E. Furniss is quite satisfied as a family doctor, but he did try to convince his children who are in medicine to become specialists. One out of three followed his advice. The doctor said, "I have a older daughter that's a family practitioner up in the Dallas Fort Worth area and one daughter is a dermatologist and of course Eddie is planning on going into family practice."

The Furniss family isn't following the national trend. The number of family medicine graduates has been falling by more than 50% percent in the last eight years. More lucrative specialties, low medicare returns and a lure toward other professions are reasons why. "If they take they take the economics away from medicine than the bright and brightest and most gifted youngsters won't be going into that. They'll be going into the other fields of business and science. That's happening some," said Furniss.

Fortunately, for a very busy Dr. George Hugman, Dr. Jeremy Smith chose family medicine. Hugman's patient load is somewhat lighter with the extra help.  The new recruit chose family practice because he likes learning about a variety of medical concerns, but many of his peers won't accept a family doctor's probable cut in pay. "Most of the people that go into sub-specialties that chose it for the money could have easily gone into family practice had it reimbursed anywhere in the ballpark of a specialty," said Smith. The University of Texas Medical School graduate moved to East Texas from Wichita Falls.

It's a competitive business recruiting doctors to communities. Dr. Smith told us the demand for jobs is almost limitless and could have gone just about anywhere he wanted because of the growing shortage of family physicians.

Finances can influence medical career choices, recruitment of physicians and keeping docs in a community. Still, patients can only hope their family doctor is doing the job because they like getting people well, no matter how minor the ailment.