Expand primary care training in Michigan, especially for underserved communities

By Ernie Yoder

In a commentary published recently in Free Press (“Lack of residencies leaves med school graduates without a career path,” May 21), the critical shortage of primary care physicians needs to be viewed as comparable to any infrastructure issue we may choose to identify. As the author of the Free Press commentary notes, there is a lack of residency programs for training new medical graduates, as we face an extreme shortage of physicians in the coming decade.

Indeed, according to Kaiser Family Foundation data, Michigan has 269 primary care professional shortage areas with nearly 3 million people living in parts of the state with an inadequate population-to-provider ratio.

The Michigan Academy of Family Physicians reports that Michigan will be short 860 primary care physicians by 2030. These shortages pose a major risk to patients, especially in rural and underserved communities.

In June, 24 residents will complete their training at Authority Health’s Graduate Medical Education Teaching Health Center program, one of the few programs in the nation that focuses training of physician in community health centers in underserved communities. Our physicians are steeped in how social determinants impact the health of vulnerable populations and how population health is as individual health. Our physicians understand how trauma – often generational trauma – influences the health of our patients. And they understand the implications of racism on health.

Our residents are more likely to find practice opportunities in underserved areas throughout the country because they choose to train here, and we encourage them to stay here.

We agree that we need more residency programs, but absolutely need to train more primary care physicians.

Ernie Yoder, M.D., Ph.D., is the Designated Institutional Officer for the Authority Health Graduate Medical Education Teaching Health Center Program.