Training in place helps boost rural physician workforce

A program director of a rurally based internal medicine program shares thoughts on a recent article.

Thank you for the article on the recruitment and retention of rural physicians ("Recruiting, Retaining Rural Physicians") in your March 2024 issue. For all of the issues concerning equity in internal medicine, perhaps none is more deserving, and yet less heeded, than the need for rural physicians. The article references a study dealing with care for rural veterans, yet the issue is just as pressing for all residents in rural areas, not just the veteran population.

Perhaps the single best way to pursue this issue successfully is not referenced in the article at all. As program director of a rurally based internal medicine program over the last decade, I have found that the best approach is to train physicians here so as to clearly show them the trials, tribulations, and benefits of life practicing medicine in a rural community. In the last 10 years, we have been able to train and retain nearly 50 internal medicine and family practice physicians within a 50-mile radius of our hospital. Several of our trainees have returned or will soon return as subspecialists also.

The Health Resources and Services Administration has recognized this fact and supports these attempts to train where you would practice. Continued governmental support is necessary to allow these programs to survive, then thrive. There are challenges, but the end result supports the effort.

Joseph G. Weigel, MD, MACP
Somerset, Ky.