Originally published here.

A need for more primary care physicians is crucial; Every additional primary care physician per 10,000 Americans results in a 5 percent decrease in outpatient visits, a 5.5 percent decrease in hospital admissions, and a 10.9 percent decrease in emergency room visits—yet the American Association of Medical Colleges estimates a shortage of up to 55,000 primary care doctors within the next 15 years.

To address this issue, the PCOM Chapter of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), along with several other student groups, recently hosted a panel discussion on the need for more funding and personnel in the primary care fields.

The panelists were Congressman Dwight Evans (D-PA-03), a co-sponsor of the Community Health Center and Primary Care Workforce Expansion Act of 2019 (HR-1943), which seeks to provide funding for federally qualified health centers and the National Health Service Corps; PCOM Board Member A. Scott McNeal, DO ‘88, president and CEO of Delaware Valley Community Health, Inc., which operates eight federally qualified health centers in the Philadelphia region; and Alexis Cates, DO, a medical toxicology fellow at Albert Einstein Medical Center.

Dr. McNeal discussed the breadth of patients his healthcare center sees and the services each offer. He stressed the need for funding on a more consistent basis. “We need to make sure the funding for these kind of healthcare centers exists. Not only are we giving a good quality of healthcare, but we’re doing it for less,” he explained.

Sheeva Norooz (DO ’22), president of the PCOM AMSA chapter, said the idea for the panel stemmed from AMSA’s participation in Primary Care Week last October.

“We began to discuss the critical role of primary care in our healthcare system, our osteopathic training as it relates to having a strong foundation in primary care, and the fact that primary care medicine is often overlooked and underfunded,” she said. “We decided to invite Rep. Evans as a sponsor of HR1943, as well as working physicians, to discuss their perspective on these issues and what legislators can do to help tackle the issue.” She added that Rep. Evans was very passionate about sharing his views with the students.

Congressman Evans said, “I appreciated the chance to talk with the medical students and to hear their frontline perspectives on health care. I always say that the most important title isn’t congressman – its citizen.”

Ms. Norooz said that the panel also provided an opportunity for the medical students to practice becoming socially responsible physicians. “As future physicians, we have an obligation to not only be aware of these issues and what is being done about them, but also to be well-versed in how to discuss these issues with our local legislators,” she said.