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TSET grant helps recruit primary care physicians to rural Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY (March 21, 2019) – A program funded by a TSET grant to the Physician Manpower Training Commission (PMTC) is addressing Oklahoma’s physician shortage by offering medical loan repayment assistance.

Through the Oklahoma Medical Loan Repayment program, 48 physicians have been placed in Oklahoma’s rural and underserved areas. To date, eight physicians have completed the program and all have chosen to continue practicing medicine where they were placed as part of the program.

Each primary care physician in rural Oklahoma will generate an estimated 23 full-time jobs that contribute about $1.5 million each year to the local economy, according to an analysis by PMTC.

Since the start of the program in 2013, doctors have conducted more than 264,000 patient visits. In addition, doctors participating in the program see patients enrolled in SoonerCare.

To date, physicians participating in the loan repayment program have conducted over 80,000 SoonerCare patient visits. During that time, physicians in the program have referred more than 9,000 patients to free cessation coaching and services through the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline, a program also funded by TSET.

 “This partnership works to bring additional preventative care to Oklahomans in rural and underserved areas, and addresses the critical shortage of physicians across the state,” said TSET Interim Executive Director Julie Bisbee. “The success of this program is adding to the state’s rural health infrastructure and supporting Oklahomans in making healthier choices and managing their health.”

Physicians must agree to establish a practice in a medically underserved area of the state for a minimum of two years. Physicians that participate in the program up to four years can receive up to $160,000 in student loan repayment assistant. On average, physicians graduating from medical school have an average of $190,000 in debt according to a 2016 study. The burden of medical school debt can sometimes prevent physicians from practicing general medicine or working in rural or underserved areas.

Applicants for the Oklahoma Medical Loan Repayment Program must be a primary care physician, which includes family medicine, geriatrics, general internal medicine, general pediatrics, obstetrics, gynecology or emergency medicine. 

"This partnership is key to addressing the shortage of doctors in rural areas and underserved areas," said Richard Evans, PMTC executive director. "The loan repayment program helps us place primary care physicians in the right area – and often times they become part of the community they serve, and continue to see patients after completing their four years in the program. It's a win-win for the doctor and the community."

                                                                       

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                

Whitney Dinger, whitneyd@tset.ok.gov

Direct: 405-521-4959

Cell: 405-227-0488

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The Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) serves as a partner and bridge builder for organizations working towards shaping a healthier future for all Oklahomans. TSET provides leadership at the intersections of health by working across the state, by cultivating innovative and life-changing research, and by working across public and private sectors to develop, support, implement and evaluate creative strategies to take advantage of emerging opportunities to improve the public's health.
TSET. Better Lives Through Better Health.