Allegheny Health Network Announces Partnership with Erie Medical School to Address Physician Shortages

Physician shortages continue to be an issue nationwide, with states, including Pennsylvania, exploring innovative ways to close the gap and preserve and improve access to care.

Allegheny Health Network recently announced its plans to bring more than 100 medical students to Forbes Medical Hospital in Monroeville for clinical rotations through a collaborative partnership with Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. According to a recent TribLIVE article, this would more than double the physicians-in-training at the hospital by 2017.

The partnership will begin in June 2015, at which time the hospital plans to take on 26 third-year students from the school, a number which is expected to increase to 52 by June 2016, and to about 100 third- and fourth-year students by 2017.

“The idea is to keep some of those clinicians in the area when they graduate to help curb the rural physician shortage that public health authorities fear could worsen in time,” company executives said in the article.

“There’s a huge opportunity because we have a whole generation of doctors that are now getting closer to retirement age,” said David Holmberg, CEO of Highmark Inc., Allegheny Health’s parent company, in the article. “The entire state, particularly western Pennsylvania, has significant need for new students, new doctors to come on board and be part of the future,” he said.

The Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) advocates for more residency slots, increased loan forgiveness, and other improvements aimed at encouraging young clinicians to stay and practice in Pennsylvania once they graduate, as well as to practice in underserved communities and health professional shortage areas.

During the last budget cycle, PAMED advocated for more residency slots and improved loan forgiveness programs as a strategy to retain more physicians in medically underserved areas and meet the commonwealth’s growing health care needs. We were successful in getting $1 million in the 2014-2015 stage budget for these purposes.