Insufficient In-State Physician Training Slots, Steep Medical Student Loan Debt Raise Concerns from Pennsylvania Medical Society

Date: April 23, 2013 Media Contact: Chuck Moran
Pennsylvania Medical Society
For Immediate Release (717) 558-7820

(Harrisburg, PA) As medical students and residents made their rounds through the Pennsylvania state capitol one cool April morning, a central message echoed through the halls. An insufficient number of in-state residency slots may not be preparing enough future doctors to take care of Pennsylvania’s growing health care needs.

“In meetings last fall our medical school deans told us that opportunities for Pennsylvania medical students to complete a residency in our state are limited and need to be addressed,” said C. Richard Schott, MD, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society. “They essentially told us that Pennsylvania could help itself and Pennsylvania patients by finding ways to increase the number of training slots within our state's boundaries.”

According to Dr. Schott, Pennsylvania medical students who complete residency programs in Pennsylvania tend to stay in the state after completion of their training.

“It’s a logical strategy to try to homegrow more of our state’s doctors,” Dr. Schott said.

Dr. Schott added that a lack of residency slots is not the only problem future Pennsylvania doctors face. Medical student loan debt is alarming and creating barriers for some to pursue a future in medicine.

According to an October 2012 report from the Association of American Medical Colleges, the mean for indebted graduates from the Class of 2012 was nearly $167,000 not including premedical education debt.

“We hear on a regular basis that medical students are graduating with significant debt combining their undergraduate and medical school educations,” Dr. Schott explained. “Some of the figures are quite shocking to hear.”

Fortunately, it appears some help may be on its way.

According to Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of Health Michael Wolf, the state is also concerned. Most recently, Secretary Wolf announced that the state would like to add more funded residency slots. The state’s also investigating ways to increase medical student loan forgiveness programs in exchange for commitments to practice in medically underserved areas of the state.

That pleases Dr. Schott, and he’s hopeful that these elements stay in the final passage of the state budget.

“There’s work to be done, and if we can get this to the finish line, it will help,” Dr. Schott says. “At a time when access to care is in demand and increasing, we need to be thinking about how to grow our health care workforce.”

“We’re encouraged to see the Corbett Administration, Acting Secretary Wolf, and many legislators paying attention to medical student and resident issues,” Schott concluded.

The patient-doctor relationship has been the priority of the Pennsylvania Medical Society since its founding in 1848. Today, the physician members continue to focus on better health for all Pennsylvanians. To learn more about the Pennsylvania Medical Society, visit the website at www.pamedsoc.org.

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Last Updated: 6/30/2014

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