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  • Washington Highlights

    COGME Discusses THCGME Policy, Draft Letters to Congress


    Brad Cunningham, Sr. Regulatory Analyst, Graduate Medical Education
    For Media Inquiries

    The Council on Graduate Medical Education (COGME), a federal advisory committee to the Department of Health and Human Services and congressional committees of jurisdiction, met on March 16 and 17 to discuss Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) and physician workforce policy. During the two-day meeting, the council also discussed the content of their 25th report to Congress and voted to send two draft letters to Congress.

    Of note, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) provided an overview of the current Teaching Health Center Planning and Development Technical Assistance Center. This program offers technical assistance to facilities that receive Teaching Health Center Planning and Development grants. The George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health presented updates to the THCGME cost evaluation study for fiscal year 2023 and recommended that future program funding levels consider increased costs due to inflation. Experts provided the council with information about rural surgery residency programs and team-based care across health care professions, key focus areas of the council’s 25th report to Congress. 

    The council also discussed two draft letters to Congress. The first letter supported the reintroduction of two pieces of legislation from the 117th Congress, the Ensuring Access to General Surgery Act of 2021 (H.R. 5149) and the Specialty Physicians Advancing Rural Care (SPARC) Act (S. 4330). The first measure would direct HRSA to study access to general surgeons in rural areas and the feasibility of the designation of surgical Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs). Currently, HRSA recognizes primary care, mental health, and dental HPSAs. The agency may establish a general surgery HPSA designation based on the study’s outcome. SPARC would establish a student loan repayment program for specialty care physicians that practice in HPSAs.  

    The second letter highlighted the importance of enhancing educational equity for underrepresented in medicine (URiM) individuals within medical education pathways. The letter made three recommendations to Congress: to increase funding for the HRSA Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP), to help fund equity initiatives for GME programs, and to request that relevant federal agencies fund faculty development programs for recruitment and retention of URiM faculty. Through the Health Professions and Nursing Education Coalition, the AAMC advocates for increased funding for HCOP and other HRSA health workforce programs [refer to related story]. 

    COGME will post both letters to the HRSA website when finalized and sent to Congress. The council’s next meeting is Sept. 8.