Physician Shortage

Western North Carolina faces a persistent shortage of qualified health professionals. Last year, every rural county in WNC was designated as a Health Professional Shortage Area by the US Health Resources and Services Administration.[1] Additionally, less than 5% of physicians trained in North Carolina are currently practicing primary care in a rural county.[2] To compound, or perhaps because of, this deficit, rural counties suffer from persistently higher rates of chronic disease morbidity and mortality from preventable causes.[3] Significant resources are being leveraged locally and statewide to create rural training tracks for medical students and residents. While these efforts are promising for the future of Western North Carolina’s healthcare workforce, there is a great need for integrated long-term solutions to strengthen the rural pipeline. Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that the most significant predictor of a health care provider ultimately practicing in a rural community is whether or not that individual grew up in a rural area.[4-8]

Excerpts from: Is There a Doctor in The Hills? – Mountain Xpress

According to the federal health agency’s widely accepted ratio, every geographic area, whether urban or rural, should have at least one primary care physician for every 3,500 people. But achieving that ratio in rural Western North Carolina isn’t easy.

“Any physician can only see and deal effectively with so many patients in a given day or week,” says Don Dalton of the North Carolina Hospital Association. “And when you have weaknesses in primary care, then you have a problem getting people the access and care management they need to stay as healthy as they possibly can.”

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Read more: Is there a doctor in the hills?

Works Cited

[1] Rural North Carolina Counties Designated Health Professional Shortage Areas. (2014, September 16). Retrieved November 1, 2015, from

[2] Spero, J. (2013).  North Carolina’s Rural Health Workforce: Challenges and Strategies. NC IOM Rural Health Taskforce Meeting. Retrieved November 1, 2015, from

[3] Committee on the Future of Rural Health Care, Board of Health Care Services, Institute of Medicine, Quality Through Collaboration: The Future of Rural Health Care. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2005

[4] Duffrin C, Diaz S, Cashion M, et al. Factors Associated with Placement of Rural Primary Care Physicians in North Carolina. Journal of Southern Medicine 2014

[5] Henry JA, Edwards BJ, Crotty B. Why do medical graduates choose rural careers? Rural Remote Health 2009

[6] Rabinowitz HK, Diamond JJ, Markham FW, et al. The relationship between entering medical students’ backgrounds and career plans and their rural practice outcomes three decades later. Acad Med 2012 et al

 [7] Royston PJ, Mathieson K, Leafman J, et al. Medical student characteristics predictive of intent for rural practice. Rural Remote Health 2012

 [8] Walker JH, Dewitt DE, Pallant JK, et al. Rural origin plus a rural clinical school placement is a significant predictor of medical students’ intentions to practice rurally: a multi-university study. Rural Remote Health 2012