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Senate Panel Lauds Medical School Primary Care Efforts

April 26, 2013—The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging April 23 met to discuss “Successful Primary Care Programs: Creating the Workforce We Need.” The AAMC submitted a statement  to the record for the hearing, which featured testimony by three AAMC-member institutions, among other witnesses.

Subcommittee members discussed health care workforce shortages in each of their states, notable primary care programs at medical schools, as well as a number of federal programs, such as the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)’s National Health Service Corps (NHSC) and the Title VII health professions programs, that work to improve access to primary care providers.

At the session, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) indicated that she is “proud to support the Medicare GME-funded residency programs at hospitals around the country” and that “we also need strong support for other federal workforce development programs, including the Corps.” She continued, “Across the board, these programs are dramatically underfunded and they can have stringent eligibility requirements that leave many extraordinary programs without adequate funding.”

Senator Warren also took a moment to “publicly recognize the first responders, the doctors, the nurses, and everyone at our world-class hospitals for their heroic work in responding to the attacks in Boston on April 15 and for their ongoing work since this terrible tragedy.” She noted that “the courage, the strength, the perseverance of our entire health care workforce helped to ensure the survival of many individuals who otherwise would have perished in this attack.”

Describing the breadth of physician shortages beyond just primary care, Subcommittee Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-N.C.) emphasized the importance of empowering institutions to address the full range of challenges. He recalled that “over my 19 years so far here, I think twice, we’ve actually paid schools to decrease the number of students in their program,” but that now, “[w]e’re going to have a shortage, and I can’t tell you which specialties they are going to be in.”

Predicting that “the shortage in primary care is going to continue,” he stressed that “it’s also going to be in other areas.” Further, he suggested that “[w]e’re in a much better position if we let institutions determine how to handle this and we provide the support that allows the flexibility” for institutions to “continue to produce the professionals at all levels to make sure that we can meet the needs of the American people.”

Also highlighting the extent of workforce shortages, particularly in underserved communities, Senators Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) asked witnesses about potential opportunities to extend the service requirements under the NHSC. Senator Roberts additionally praised HRSA’s Title VII and Title VIII workforce education and training programs, describing “some great work in that area” and that “you have my support for these programs.” He proposed that there may be “new ways [to] build off of those programs.”

Among the two panels of witnesses were Paul R. G. Cunningham, M.D., FACS, dean and senior associate vice chancellor for medical affairs, The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University; Bruce Koeppen, M.D., Ph.D., founding dean of the Frank H. Netter, M.D., School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University; and George S. Rust, M.D., M.P.H., professor of family medicine at the Morehouse School of Medicine and co-director of the National Center for Primary Care.

The hearing follows a similar discussion that the subcommittee hosted in January [see Washington Highlights, Feb. 1]. AAMC also submitted a statement  to the record for that hearing.


Tannaz Rasouli
Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach
Telephone: 202-828-0525


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