Student Loan Debt and Lack of Residency Slots Addressed in Governor’s Healthy PA Plan

Medical students and residents from across Pennsylvania have expressed concerns regarding excessive student loan debt as well as an insufficient number of in-state residency slots to prepare enough future physicians to take care of the state’s growing health care needs.

On Sept. 16, 2013, Gov. Tom Corbett announced his “Healthy Pennsylvania” plan, which includes meaningful efforts to expand residency slots across the state and help young physicians pay down their medical school debt by practicing in underserved areas. Both of these are essential steps toward ensuring that a sufficient number of physicians remain in Pennsylvania to help serve as part of a physician-led, patient-centered health care team. Read the press release.

“With the aging baby boomer population and upcoming implementation of health care reform, we need to increase the physician workforce in order to keep pace with demand, said resident Alexis Smith, DO.

C. Richard Schott, MD, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, agrees.

“At a time when access to care is in demand and increasing, we need to be thinking about how to grow our health care work force,” said Dr. Schott. “We’re encouraged to see Gov. Corbett and his administration paying attention to medical student and resident issues.”

Insufficient In-State Residency Slots—It has been shown that Pennsylvania medical students who complete residency programs here tend to stay and practice in this state. Studies also have pointed to a physician shortage problem in Pennsylvania. And yet, there are not enough in-state residency slots.

According to Michael Wolf, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health, the state shares this concern. Secretary Wolf recently announced that the state would like to add more funded primary care residency slots. These efforts were included in the governor’s Healthy Pennsylvania plan.

Medical Student Loan Debt—According to an October 2012 report from the Association of American Medical Colleges, the average debt of 2012 medical school graduates was nearly $167,000, not including premedical education debt.