Internet search engine giant Google recently announced a $115,000 donation to Charleston’s Medical University of South Carolina to fund a student-run rural health clinic. Funds will cover expenses involved with setting up the CARES Medical Clinic, which will run on weekend at a St. Stephen middle school. The project is an expansion of an existing site in Mount Pleasant, where free care is given to uninsured patients under the supervision of the medical school’s physicians.
It’s a new philanthropic focus for Google, which typically supports more general education efforts. And it’s a welcome one. Like many rural communities, St. Stephen is facing a shortage of physicians and basic medical services, with just two physicians actively practicing in the town.
It’s a common and growing problem. According to a recent analysis by 24/7 Wall Street, a financial news and opinion content firm, every state in the US, even those with high doctor-to-patient ratios, has at least one county with no actively practicing doctor. Not surprisingly, these counties are overwhelmingly rural.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the patient-to-primary care physician ratio in rural areas is only 39.8 physicians per 100,000 people, compared to 53.3 physicians per 100,000 in urban areas. And the federal Health Resources and Services Administration says there are more than 7,200 designated Health Professional Shortage Areas lacking adequate primary care nationwide. Of them, nearly 60 percent are in rural regions. By the HRSA’s estimation, the US needs some 4,022 rural doctors to close the gap.
“Twenty percent of our nation’s population is rural, and rural counties are more likely to report fair to poor health,” a recent HRSA report reads. “Rural Americans tend to be older and less well insured, and chronic disease prevalence, infant and maternal morbidity, mental illness, environmental and occupational injuries, and obesity are higher in rural communities.”
Urban areas have larger, younger populations with generally higher education rates and higher incomes, making it easier to attract medical students and trainees. But, in an effort to assure coverage of these vulnerable areas, multiple medical colleges and programs are offering incentives, such as job placement and tuition reimbursement, to students who commit to rural practice.
Whether you’re aiming for big-city or small-town practice, St. Augustine, FL-based WOLFPACC can help assure you’re prepared for the rigors of medical school and the highly rewarding challenge of a healthcare profession. Call 904-209-3140 to find out how.
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