rural doctor shortage

Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA

This story is part of our series "Shortage in Rich Land" on Missouri's Bootheel region. Click here to see all of the stories.

It’s early morning. The sun is shining brightly on the corrugated metal siding of the Otto Bean Medical Center in Kennett, Mo., and inside the building, Judith Haggard is pricking the soles of her patient’s feet with a pin.

Otto Bean is part of the SEMO Health Network, a Federally Qualified Health Center which operates several clinics across southeast Missouri.

Haggard is a nurse practitioner and one of the ranking medical providers here at the clinic, which has no full-time doctor. She has just 15 minutes to spend with her patient, a 71-year-old diabetic on Medicaid.

Every Friday, KBIA’s Health and Wealth Desk curates the week’s most interesting (or so we think) articles and reports on rural health, wealth and society issues.

Osteopathic Physicians: An Answer To Rural Health Care Needs?

It’s no secret the U.S. is facing a shortage of primary care physicians – especially in rural areas, which is home to some 20 percent of all Americans, but only has 9 percent of all physicians. Compared to specialized medicine such as surgery and cardiology, primary care does not pay as well – and the average student loan debt for med school graduates is $161,290. Only about 24 percent of MD graduates lean to primary care. That’s not the case with recent osteopathic medicine graduates, though.  

With the Rural Reads series, we’re trying something new. Every Friday, KBIA’s Health and Wealth Desk curates the week’s most interesting (or so we think) articles and reports on rural issues.

What’s in a definition? The eligibility for federal grants

In February, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a report that recommends defining ‘rural’ as areas with 50,000 or fewer residents - a number that's getting some strong reactions. The rural definition determines eligibility for USDA’s rural grants and programs. 

The excellent online news service The Daily Yonder is publishing a series of opinion pieces in response to USDA’s newest recommendation. Last week, Aletta Botts, a legislative staffer who helped draft the 2008 Farm Bill, wrote that the 50,000 size limit is too large and would hurt smaller communities that can’t compete with larger towns to win federal grants.  

New program eases debt for rural medical students

Feb 22, 2012
Jacob Fenston / KBIA

The average medical school student graduates with close to $160,000 in debt. That heavy burden is one reason why there is a long-running shortage of primary care doctors in rural America. More and more graduating students choose higher-paying specialties over rural primary care. In this weekly update, a new pilot program helps medical students pay off loans as soon as they start residency, so it's easier to choose a lower-paying, but possibly more fulfilling career path.