Program created to address AL's rural doctor shortages

Program created to address AL's rural doctor shortages

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WSFA) - The University of Alabama at Birmingham and BlueCross BlueShield of Alabama are teaming up to find ways to stem the shortage of primary care physicians in the state's rural areas.

Federal reports show 62 of the state's 67 counties are suffering from a doctor shortage.

UAB and BlueCross are creating a program to increase rural Alabama's access to doctors.

How? BlueCross has given UAB $3.6 million to train 60 primary care physicians over a five year period.

The scholarships will pay the tuition of 12 third and fourth-year students each year and once those physicians are trained, they'll return to practice for three years in a county where there's a primary care shortage.

The hope is that once the required stay has ended, the physicians will remain to help the communities they've served.

"As part of UAB's mission, we not only provide quality and compassionate patient care here in the Birmingham region but also work towards greater access to such care statewide," said UAB President Ray Watts, M.D. "We are grateful for the generous support and partnership of Blue Cross Blue Shield in this vital scholarship program that will help us grow the ranks of primary care physicians in rural areas of our state. The funding of these scholarships over the next five years will have a tremendous, long-term impact on health and quality of life throughout Alabama."

"Every Alabamian should have access to high-quality primary care. Partnering with UAB will provide primary care services to more Alabamians in rural areas," said Tim Vines, president and CEO, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama. "Recent studies show having access to primary health care results in improved health outcomes and lower health care spending. This investment validates our long-term commitment to providing Alabamians access to the quality health care they need."

"As someone originally from the small town of Demopolis in Marengo County, I'm especially excited that our expertly trained physicians will soon be serving in communities that need them so desperately," said Selwyn Vickers, M.D., senior vice president for Medicine and dean of the UAB School of Medicine. "The students in this program will be the 'boots on the ground' out in the communities where individuals need advocates and knowledgeable medical professionals right now."

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