Rural cities in East Texas facing critical physician shortages, but there may be a solution

Rural cities in East Texas facing critical physician shortages, but they may have a solution
Published: Aug. 11, 2023 at 11:33 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Medical professionals in East Texas are reporting critical physician shortages in rural communities. Some clinics are stretched thin, with limited resources taking a toll on people’s access to health care.

Dr. Anna Poulos, Senior Medical Director at Oak Street Health, says she’s seen a steady incline of physician shortages over the years. From longer wait times to limited staff resources, the effects are showing, especially in rural communities where there’s delay in health care. She stresses this can lead to increased chronic illness burden as well as a decrease in survival.

According to the Texas Medical Association, the state has about 204 doctors per 100, 000 people. However according to Dr. Brigham C. Willis, Founding Dean of the UT Tyler School of Medicine, in East Texas, the ratio per doctor is way above.

“We have counties in East Texas, one of which has zero physicians, the entire county, Marion County, a lot of other counties that have only one or a handful of physicians, each with numbers of population up to 5000 or more per doctor.”

Doctors say the main problem stems from difficulties attracting physicians to work in smaller cities. However, recruiting from the communities that need help the most is an initiative, doctors hope – changes the future.

The UT Tyler School of Medicine is starting programs to reach kids in grades K through 12 and showing them the opportunities of working in health care. Dean Willis says their goal is to continue recruiting students right from East Texas.

Solving this problem won’t be a quick fix, physicians’ study and work anywhere from 10 to 14 years before officially practicing. Even so, laying the foundation now, can build for a better tomorrow.