State Health Services taps Tarleton to analyze physician workforce

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STEPHENVILLE (August 22, 2016) — On the heels of wrapping up a study on the availability of healthcare in underserved, rural areas, three Tarleton State University professors have been tapped by the Department of State Health Services to investigate the shortage of general surgeons and emergency room physicians in Texas.

The project comes with an almost $50,000 grant based on a legislative mandate approved last year by the 84th Legislature and focuses on the capacity of the state’s graduate-level medical education system.

Drs. Edward Osei, Syed H. Jafri, and Steve Steed will work hand-in-hand with the Center for Health Statistics to define shortages and evaluate the ability of Texas’ medical education pipeline to meet the growing need for general surgeons and ER doctors.

“Our recent study on the availability of rural healthcare specialists highlighted shortages of cardiologists, pulmonologists and endocrinologists across the state of Texas,” said Jafri, professor of economics. “The shortage is worse in small and rural counties, especially for endocrinologists.

“Accessibility of clinicians, hospitals and specialized programs—like surgery and ER services—is also a challenge and becomes worse as more people take advantage of the Affordable Care Act. Healthcare services simply aren’t available in many areas even though people may have the insurance to obtain medical help.”

The study on the availability and accessibility of rural healthcare was made possible by a $25,000 grant—the Chancellor’s Challenge Award— through The Texas A&M University System’s Area 41 Institute. The goal of the institute is to harness A&M System’s collective assets and provide ideas that address critical state and national challenges, including an expensive and insufficient healthcare system.

A user-friendly, interactive GIS-based website of medical specialists and primary healthcare providers searchable by county and funded by the A&M University System’s Area 41 grant is expected to go live by month’s end, making it easier for Texas residents to find the medical help they need.

“Now, the state asks that we do a similar study specific to general surgeons and ER physicians,” said Osei, assistant professor in Tarleton’s Department of Agricultural and Consumer Sciences. “We’ll look at urban and non-urban locales and determine if there are enough medical schools and residency programs in Texas to meet growing healthcare needs.”

According to Steed, dean of Tarleton’s growing College of Business Administration and a long-time board member of Texas Health Resources, “It’s not just how many general surgeons and ER doctors are in a state that determines access and availability. It’s how and where they choose to practice that counts. Our study may show a need for more hospitals, surgery centers and independent ER facilities.”

The professors are expected to present their findings at the October meeting of the Texas Statewide Health Coordinating Council.

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