Topeka A bill introduced in the Kansas Senate on Wednesday that would penalize the Kansas University Medical Center if not enough students enter family practice is the wrong way to get more doctors for rural areas, a KUMC official said today.
"We believe sincerely in focusing attention of students in the specialty of family practice," said D. Kay Clawson, KU executive vice chancellor for the medical center. "Our disappointment is that there is no way that penalizing the institution as a whole will actually address the problem."
The bill was drafted by the Joint Committee on Health Care Decisions for the 1990s.
Under the measure, funding for KUMC in Kansas City, Kan., would be cut if 5 percent of the students do not enter its family practice training program.
The bill is intended to encourage officials at KUMC to steer more students into family practice, rather than other specialities. Kansas has a shortage of doctors in family practice, particularly in rural areas.
PENALIZING the institution would not attack the problem the way those proposing the bill intend, Clawson said today in a telephone interview from Wichita State University, where he was attending a Kansas Board of Regents meeting.
"The tenured faculty who they feel control the output of what specialty students go into would not be impacted as they're projecting it," Clawson said. He said the actual cuts would come in non-educational areas, such as in the school's cleaning staff budget.
"I am very appreciative of the frustration that the Legislature has and that many citizens, particularly in the rural parts of the state, have at not being able to access a physician in their community," Clawson said. "We share that frustration very much."
Clawson said a dearth of primary-care physicians is a nationwide problem.
"MEDICAL students are taking on specialties that pay better or those specialties that provide for a better lifestyle," he said.
KUMC has taken steps to encourage more students to enter the specialty by focusing its attention on family practice, also known as primary-care physicians, he said.
For example, Dr. James Price, a family physician, was appointed as the medical school's dean. And family practice specialists are featured as instructors at KUMC's campuses in Kansas City, Kan., and Wichita, Clawson said.
As a result, U.S. News and World Report magazine ranked KUMC as sixth out of 126 schools in the country that emphasize primary care, he said.
"We believe that we are a showplace," Clawson said. "It is very interesting that the Legislature takes what is a showplace of primary care and tries attacking it."
Clawson said the medical center has encouraged lawmakers to set up a family practice program in Topeka as a way to get more physicians into rural areas.
"We know that medical students tend to set up their family practices within 100 miles of where they had taken their residency," he said.