Partnership aims to combat impending doctor shortage in Georgia

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – An impending doctor shortage is a nationwide issue, and in Georgia, it could mean the loss of nearly a third of physicians.

In 12 years, 46,000 doctors are expected to retire. Right now, 39% of practicing physicians in Georgia are at retirement age.

But a new partnership between Mercer University’s Medical School and HCA Healthcare is working to combat the shortage.

“We’re launching residency programs across the entire division. So we’re very excited about that,” said Hugh Tappan, HCA South Atlantic Division president.

There were more than a hundred people on hand Thursday for a big announcement. Residency training hubs are growing to six locations, mostly in Georgia, including Waycross, Dublin, Macon and Savannah.

“We think that it’s transformational for the state,” said Dr. Jean Rawling Sumner, Dean of Mercer University School of Medicine. “Southeast Georgia is particularly grossly underserved and particularly rural areas that surround this part of Georgia.”

Young doctors in training will be able to learn and practice in a rural setting, preparing them to serve those communities.

That’s the plan for first-year medical student Daniel Streetman.

“In the state of Georgia now, there are kids that don’t have a pediatrician within an hour of them. As a kid, you get sick a lot and you have to go to the doctor,” the student explained.

We think that it’s transformational for the state.”

 DR. JEAN RAWLING SUMNER, DEAN OF MERCER UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

Mercer is at the forefront of accelerated training allowing doctors to graduate early — and at a reduced cost for some who are committed to rural areas.

“I think it provides young doctors the ability to go through medical school and focus on patients and learning and then be able to practice in a shorter amount of time in areas that are really in need of doctors,” said Memorial Hospital intern Dr. Cameron Wagenbrenner.

For Streetman, the pay off will make up for 60-hour study weeks.

“You think back of the big goal in hand and you’re like, ‘OK, I’m gonna do this for where I’m from and the people that I want to serve,’” he added.

Doctor retention is the goal, and Mercer University’s School of Medicine is third in the nation, with nearly 70 percent of their new doctors choosing to stay in Georgia and practice medicine.

The university hopes to see that number increase in the near future.

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