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Scholarships Announced to Fill Primary Care Doctor Shortage

By Amy Zimmer | April 4, 2012 4:14pm
HHC President Alan Aviles announcing a new scholarship program for New Yorkers studying to be primary care doctors.
HHC President Alan Aviles announcing a new scholarship program for New Yorkers studying to be primary care doctors.
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Jon Simon/Feature Photo Service

MANHATTAN — As med school students are lured into high-paying specialties like dermatology and orthopedic surgery, the city’s public hospitals are looking to fill a shortage of lower-paying primary care doctors with a multi-million dollar scholarship program for students with New York ties.

The Health and Hospitals Corporation is hoping to address the shortfall of doctors going into family medicine, pediatrics and internal medicine through an $11 million pot for scholarships to New Yorkers who commit to practicing primary care in the city’s public hospital network, officials announced Wednesday at Metropolitan Hospital on East 97th Street.

The scholarships will be given to college students who have demonstrated academic excellence and financial need for medical degrees at St. George’s University in Grenada.

Students have to meet one of the following criteria for eligibility: be a graduate from a New York City high school, a resident in the city for five years, have a parent employed by HHC or city government, or be employed by HCC or city government for at least five years. Doctor hopefuls must apply before June 1, for the fall semester.

The U.S. could face a shortage of 90,000 doctors by 2020, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, as older physicians retire and more Americans will need healthcare. Some 30 percent of all HHC physicians will be nearing retirement age in the next decade, which means the city's public hospitals will need a steady source of primary care physicians, a spokeswoman for the network said.

The aging baby boomers will need more care, and there will be new federal rules requiring better coordination of care under the reforms that will insure some 32 million additional people.

But not enough med students are entering the comparably lower-paying field primary care needed to provide these services, the AAMC worried, because of student loans: 78 percent of med students graduate with more than $100,000 worth of debt.

"Primary care providers are the main source of healthcare for many New Yorkers,” HHC President Alan Aviles said in a statement. ‘The CityDoctors scholarships will serve as a great incentive to ensure the public hospitals can secure a pool of outstanding primary care physicians."

The first class of 25 “CityDoctors” will be awarded their scholarships this summer and fall. Five will receive a full four-year scholarship valued at $216,000 — and will have to commit to working as primary care providers for four years in HHC medical centers. The rest will receive partial scholarship to St. George’s, after which they’ll have to work two years in these hospitals.

St. George’s said it will also provide two full-tuition scholarships every year for the next four years for each HHC hospital that provides at least 24 positions for these students.