A healthy supply of primary care providers

Doctors and nurses play a key role in transforming Rhode Island’s health care system. Projected shortages led us to seek partnerships to ensure the steady supply of new practitioners necessary to achieve our goal of making health care accessible and affordable for all.

The state will need an estimated 4,000 new nurses by 2021. To train that many new nurses, the state’s colleges and universities will more nursing professors. That’s why we launched the Future of Nursing Scholars initiative with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Rhode Island School of Nursing.

The program underwrites the cost of tuition for Ph.D. candidates who plan to go into teaching at the college level. Participants receive $75,000 scholarships from the Foundation and an additional $50,000 in support from URI.

Primary care doctors are also in short supply. Nationally, the proportion of medical school graduates expressing an interest in primary care has dropped from one in three in the early 1980s to about one in six in recent years.

So we are partnering with Brown University’s Alpert Medical School to address the primary-care-pipeline problem by competing one-by-one for students’ hearts and minds. One program compensates experienced primary care physicians for taking the time to mentor students, while a second initiative trains med students to serve not only as primary care providers, but also as health care leaders and advocates.

Dr. Jack Elias, Brown’s dean of medicine and biological sciences, says, “…doctors-in-training will learn to not only treat individual patients but also how to tackle community-level, high-impact health issues.”

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