SEPT. 8, 1998
(LITTLE ROCK, AR) “Eighty percent of the medical students trained in Arkansas stay in Arkansas to practice,” states Geoffrey Goldsmith, M.D., chair of the Department of Family Medicine. Arkansas has the highest retention rate in the United States of residents who stay in their home state upon graduation.
Recently the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) received recognition for this outstanding accomplishment by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). AAFP honored 46 medical schools across the nation for having the highest three-year average of graduates entering family practice residency training programs during the period from 1995-1997. With 29.9 percent of its graduating class entering family practice residency training programs, UAMS ranked eighth in the nation to receive the Silver Achievement Award.
This award is very significant for Arkansas since the rural areas of the state have a hard time attracting physicians. Family practice physicians are well suited for financially poor areas that are in need of doctors. Arkansas and UAMS have been striving to increase the number of small town family physicians to meet this increasing demand.
UAMS is gaining momentum in their efforts encouraging medical students to move to the rural areas of Arkansas as family practice physicians. Although the state has only one Department of Family and Community Medicine, the department consists of seven training facilities. One training facility is located on the UAMS campus, while six others are located around the state at Area Health Education Centers (AHECs). The six AHEC training facilities allow students to take a portion of their classes away from the University while getting the feel for rural practice. The facilities are located in El Dorado, Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Jonesboro, Pine Bluff and Texarkana.
Many of the smaller communities across Arkansas are also encouraging students to seek employment in their towns upon graduation. They are courting young physicians by offering financial aid through the Community Match program and providing opportunities for 1st- and 2nd-year students to take family practice summer electives in their communities.
Matt Jackson, M.D., is the first to graduate under the Community Match Scholarship, part of the Rural Practice Program enacted by the Arkansas General Assemble to attract doctors to practice in towns with fewer than 15,000 people. “I’ve always wanted to be a family doctor,” Jackson said. “As we moved among the small towns of Arkansas, I noticed that the physicians were always respected and served as role models in their communities, really helping people.” Now he is beginning his medical career in Piggott, Arkansas, Clay County. The Community Match program saved Jackson about $33,000 of indebtedness.
Through education and encouragement, medical students are beginning to see the demand for family physicians and gravitate toward this career choice. The percentage of graduating medical students making family practice a top career choice at UAMS is on a steady incline. In 1989-90, UAMS family practice graduates made up 21.1% of the graduating class and since then have climbed to 29.9%.
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Contact: Tracy Dorathy
Phone: (501) 686-8180
Fax: (501) 686-5067