By Melanie Kearns Davis
Media Contact Bob Shepard
The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) Surgical Physician Assistant (SPA) degree program in the School of Health Professions is adding a primary care option for incoming students in an effort to meet the forecasted workforce needs in primary care.
With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, health insurance coverage will expand to an additional 34 million people in the United States. By 2020, the Association of American Medical Colleges projects the United States will be short 45,000 primary care doctors, especially in rural areas, and 46,000 specialty physicians.
“The physician workforce alone will not be able to address these growing health care needs,” said Patricia Jennings, DrPH, PA-C, director of the SPA program. “Physician assistants, with their generalist education, commitment to team-based practice and relatively short training, are ideally positioned to address both the short- and long-term needs of the nation.”
The SPA program is partnering with small communities in Alabama, Mississippi and Montana to help fill the gap.
“Several preceptor facilities and physicians are offering housing to these students during their four-month rotation,” said Jennings. “We want these communities to invest in our students in the hopes they will go back to that area when they graduate.”
Meanwhile, Jennings is trying to expand the locations for student rotations, especially rural primary care rotations.
“We encourage rural practitioners in any specialty or subspecialty to open their doors to become a preceptor for our students,” said Jennings.