Could free education be cure to US primary care doctor shortage?

Global Business

Medical training can leave doctors in debt for decades, and in the U.S., many are deciding to go into specialist fields to make more money. That’s leading to a shortage of primary care physicians.

Palm Springs in California has a particular shortage that’s causing headaches. But it’s come up with an inventive solution to lure doctors there.

CGTN’s Phil Lavelle reports.

No shortage of sunshine in Palm Springs. But a real shortage of doctors. The tourists flock here from nearby Los Angeles. The trainee doctors tend to head the other way.

Part of the problem here is that Palm Springs has a relatively older population, with a median age of 54, compared to 36 for the rest of California.

Older populations tend to need more doctors, not fewer. So to get the doctors to come here, to get the doctors to stay here, this place is having to get creative.

Trainee doctor Jasmine Correa gets her education completely free. That’s $200,000 in tuition fees. That’s the new normal for some medical students here at University of California, Riverside.

No fees, full training. But there’s a catch.

“I can go anywhere in the country, but then I would have to come back to the Inland Empire and serve a minimum of five years, giving back my service for the scholarship that they’ve provided,” Correa said.

Palm Springs doctor Gemma Kim knows just how busy things are as a doctor here in Palm Springs. She’s part of the shortage.

“If you need to see a physician and you’re a new patient, it may take up to three months sometimes,” Kim said.

“I think the whole purpose is that it’s trying to attract those students who grew up in this area. So studies have clearly shown that students will either return to where they grew up from or stay at where they trained at.”

Other schools have started similar schemes, New York Univesrity recently launching a free medical training program for all, but there’s no catch attached to that offer.