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Legislation would help train, recruit doctors to rural areas

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar recently filed an amendment with Senator Mark Udall to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that would help train and recruit new doctors to practice in currently underserved rural communities.

While nearly a quarter of Americans live in rural areas, only 10 percent of physicians practice medicine in rural areas. The amendment builds upon the success of the University of Minnesota's Rural Physician Associate Program.

"Right now we're facing a shortage of primary care physicians in our rural communities," said Klobuchar. "This amendment will help recruit and train a new generation of doctors to continue to provide quality health care to rural Minnesota."

The amendment would create a competitive grant program that would give medical schools resources to create training programs or expand existing programs that specialize in medical care for rural communities. It would also establish programs to recruit students from rural underserved areas who wish to practice medicine in their hometowns.

The key components of the bill include:

•Coursework/training: The programs would include curricula and training focused on medical issues prevalent in underserved rural communities, including trauma, obstetrics, ultrasound, oral health and behavioral health.

•Rural clinical rotations: Students in the program would participate in rural clinical rotations and emphasize specialties including family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, surgery, psychiatry and emergency medicine.

•Cohort component: This bill calls for students to be admitted together in group cohorts, while developing and reinforcing their commitment to practice in underserved rural communities.

•Rural community partnerships: This legislation incentivizes community and local health care provider partnerships by giving priority to those schools demonstrating a close relationship with rural regions in terms of financing and training students during their clinical rotations.

•Residency placement assistance: Students will receive assistance in obtaining placement in residency programs that will further their rural medical education.

The legislation is endorsed by AARP, Academic Family Medicine Advocacy Alliance, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Association of Medical Colleges, American, College of Osteopathic Internists, American College of Physicians, American Medical Student Association, American Osteopathic Association, Association of American Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, and the National Rural Health Association.

Earlier this week, Klobuchar filed another amendment to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that would address the shortage of rural emergency medical personnel. Klobuchar's Veterans-to-Paramedics Transition Act would streamline the transition of returning veterans, with emergency medical training, to civilian employment in emergency medical professions.