Other Voices

New program will keep doctors from leaving North Texas

Instructor evaluating medical student during practice procedure. Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Instructor evaluating medical student during practice procedure. Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine. UNTHSC

For too long, Texas hasn’t kept enough doctors at home. We're facing shortages, preventing many Texans from accessing the quality health care they need.

The statistics are troubling. Texas ranks 41st in the nation for physicians per 100,000 residents and 47th for primary care physicians, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Each medical student in Texas represents a $168,000 investment. If there aren't enough residency slots available, we lose those graduates to other states. That's why the Texas Legislature has increased funding for graduate medical education by $60 million over the last two sessions. We also established a permanent endowment to fund residency slots.

Our goal was to achieve residency positions for every medical school graduate in Texas. That allows us to better retain physicians, and recruit some of the best talent from other states. Despite those efforts, Texas is on path to have 185 more medical school graduates than residency positions by 2021.

A new public-private partnership from two North Texas stalwarts — Medical City Healthcare and the University of North Texas Health Science Center — will help fill that gap. This partnership brings an established healthcare system with 14 hospitals in the Dallas-Fort Worth area together with a graduate university that produces more primary care physicians than any other medical school in Texas.

This week, these entities jointly announced Medical City’s pledge to develop approximately 500 residency positions across DFW hospitals over the next seven years. This includes residency programs in internal medicine and general surgery.

The academic sponsor of the new residencies will be UNT Health Science Center, which will soon have two medical schools: the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, and the planned Texas Christian University and UNTHSC School of Medicine, scheduled to open in 2019.

Studies show that Texas retains 80 percent of physicians who graduate in-state medical schools and stay for their residencies. These graduates provide even better patient care when their teaching hospitals are also top-notch medical facilities. When we use innovative solutions, we begin to crack the code for one of the most challenging issues facing Texas healthcare. This partnership will bring more physicians to North Texas without straining state resources to do so.

Patients cannot access the health care they need without a strong medical workforce — one that covers the entire state and allows them to access specialty care. We've found that the solution is two-pronged: First we train students in our medical schools, then we ensure they stay at home for their residencies. By creating a pipeline of physician talent here in Texas, we can ensure our future physicians are the best and brightest.

And that will result in better healthcare for more Texans.

Rep. Charlie Geren is a Fort Worth Republican in the Texas House. Sen. Jane Nelson, a Flower Mound Republican, is in the Texas Senate.