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These days you don’t read many 5000-word feature stories — they’re nearly as hard to find as a doctor in rural Idaho. So thanks to the Boise Weekly and writer Carissa Wolf for an excellent article about the state’s shortage of physicians and the Family Medicine Residency program that’s had some success bringing doctors in.
Idaho ranks last in the nation in physicians-per-patient. Susie Pouiiot, head of the Idaho Medical Association (IMA), told Wolf “if all Idahoans had health insurance, many would still have a tough time accessing medical care,” even in Boise, the capital. In rural parts of the state, the doctor shortage is staggering. Wolf interviews a number of country doctors: “Everybody needs you and you’re the only show in town,” says one. Another makes his weekly rounds via airplane.
Wolf describes a breathless day in the life of a rural physician. She also explains the difficulties attracting new doctors and a number of state efforts to turn the problem around: a possible Idaho medical school, reduced tuition at med schools in neighboring states, analysis of rural physicians’ “personality types.” But Pouliot of the IMA has found, residency programs “give you the best bang for your buck.”
Wolf writes that “physicians tend to establish practices near their residency programs. Fifty-four percent of the graduates of the Family Medicine Residency of Idaho program practice in Idaho. The majority of those physicians practice in rural areas.”