A new report conducted by the Geiger Gibson/RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative at Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University (GW) finds that the shortage of primary care doctors could worsen if funding for the Teaching Health Centers (THC), a program to train medical residents in underserved areas, is eliminated. Loss of funding could disrupt the training of 550 current medical residents and cut off the pipeline of future primary care residents, the report says.
The Teaching Health Center program was started in 2011 to increase the number of primary care residents and dentists trained in community-based settings, and to fill gaps left by the current system of graduate medical education (GME). The THC program trains medical residents to practice in underserved communities serving people who are geographically isolated, and economically or medically vulnerable.
According to the report, almost 91 percent of THC graduates remain in primary care practice compared to less than 25 percent of residents who graduate from traditional residency programs. In addition, about 76 percent of THC residents practice in underserved regions of the country as compared to eight percent of residents trained in traditional GME programs. If medical residents in these programs can complete their training, they are expected to provide much-needed primary care to an estimated one million patients per year.
The report, “Teaching Health Centers: A Promising Approach for Building Primary Care Workforce for the 21st Century,” was authored by Dr. Leighton Ku, professor of health policy at Milken Institute SPH, Dr. Fitzhugh Mullan, Murdock Head Professor of Health Policy and Medicine at Milken Institute SPH and professor of pediatrics at the GW School of Medicine & Health Sciences, and a team at the Milken Institute School of Public Health along with Ms. Cristine Serrano, executive director of the American Association of Teaching Health Centers.