Doctors wanted: Hospital partners with community to bring more physicians to our area
The need for doctors to provide care to our growing and aging population is soaring but the number of men and women pursuing careers as physicians is not keeping pace. The Association of American Medical Colleges projects that by 2032 – just 13 years from now – the United States will be short nearly 122,000 physicians.
Between 1987 and 2007 the population of the United States grew 24 percent, from 242 million people to 302 million people. In the same period, the number of physicians trained in the U.S. grew by only eight percent.
The AAMC says driving demand for physicians is the fact that not only is our population growing, but as we continue to address health goals like reducing obesity and tobacco use, more Americans are living longer lives.
Here in Nevada County, the physician shortage is a harsh reality.
“The physician shortage is one of the biggest challenges we face in health care today,” says Jason Brown, Director of Business Development at Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital. “We are not the only ones experiencing it and sadly, because it is a nationwide problem, it is not in our favor for the future.”
Fortunately, Brown and leadership at SNMH and other community organizations recognized this challenge early and are taking steps to address it. The team has brought many physician assistants to the region and also employs an MDA who works within the current physician community to help meet their needs and identify current and future gaps.
“Another strategy we have developed is our Rural Training Tract program, which will allow us to teach and train future physicians in our community,” Brown explains. “This program will draw more providers to the community and allow us an opportunity to win them over to stay in the community and practice medicine here once they have completed their training.”
The Rural Training Tract program was made possible through a $750,000 federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Rural Residency Planning and Development Program grant secured by the boards of Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation and Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital.
Dr. Glenn Gookin, MD and Hospitalist at SNMH was the visionary for this project. Dr. Gookin completed his residency at Dignity Health’s Methodist Family Medicine Residency program in Sacramento and understood what an advantage this could mean for our rural community.
“The benefits of this program include enhanced recruitment and retention of graduates who then choose to practice in our rural community,” Dr. Gookin stated. “It will also support heightened referrals to hospital’s specialists and ancillary services.”
Joining in the planning and development of this effort will be Chapa-De Indian Health Clinic in Grass Valley, as well as Methodist Hospital and Mercy Family Medical Clinic in Sacramento.
“A top priority is to increase rural providers to meet workforce needs of our region in the future,” says SNMH Foundation’s Executive Director Kimberly Parker. “What continues to set our community apart is the ability to bring partners together to collaborate on efforts that will best serve the medical needs of our community.”
Brown says through his recruitment work, he has learned there are many things about this community and its residents that prove attractive to physicians.
“In my conversations with local physicians, they love how friendly and appreciative the community is for their services,” Brown says. “Having a community that supports the physicians and appreciates them is definitely a draw. The beauty of what the foothills provides and the close proximity to cities and nature and arts and entertainment – all of that is very attractive.”
Brown recently partnered with Nevada County Economic Resource Council to create a 4-minute video capturing what it is like to practice medicine and live in our community.
“The responses from physicians is amazing,” Brown says. “The video helps us stand out, especially considering most physicians are contacted daily about job opportunities in communities across the country. Our community will never draw those seeking the hustle and bustle of city life but for those looking for a great place to practice medicine and enjoy nature and be centrally located to lots of great destinations, this community is a wonderful home.”
Looking to the future, Brown says despite the national physician shortage, he continues to be optimistic about the care available in our community.
“The mission of any community hospital is to improve the lives of those living in the community,” Brown says. “At SNMH, part of how we accomplish that mission is by keeping care local. We are tirelessly working on finding the right fit providers to create a sustainable health care delivery that the community trusts and partners with for their care.”
Brown points to the recent addition of Dr. Ron James with Northern California Orthopedic Associates, who is now providing much needed orthopedic care in the community. He says more specialists are on the way.
“We have several more physicians that have recently come to the community – primary care, cardiology, radiology, physical medicine and podiatry. Every day we are investigating new opportunities that will help us continue to provide exceptional care and that could help us successfully recruit more providers into our community. I am blessed to work with so many amazing providers already in the community; there is a lot of positive energy at SNMH. I’m honored to serve and to see how we can continue to be trusted to care for the community.”
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