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“Physician Shortage Impact on Minority Health Outcomes in Rural Communities”

Author: Elora Choudhury

Department: UIC Institute for Policy & Civic Engagement

Advisor: Dr. Joseph K. Hoereth, IPCE

Abstract: The United States is experiencing a diminishing supply of physicians, with a projected shortage of up to 124,000 practitioners by 2034 (Heiser, 2023). The shortage not only affects the accessibility and quality of healthcare nationwide but also worsens existing health disparities for minorities. This research aims to understand the magnitude of the doctor shortage, particularly in rural communities, and its impact on minority healthcare in the United States. By reviewing the literature, this research identifies the current context of the rural physician shortage and explores practices that could diversify medical education and clinical research. Additionally, it informs legislation, such as the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2023, that attempts to alleviate the doctor shortage. Patients of color experience barriers to accessing healthcare and receive lower-quality services due to underrepresentation in the medical field and clinical trials. There are not many policies in place that address the doctor shortage while prioritizing diverse patient populations. Thus, minorities are proven to be disproportionately impacted by the declining number of healthcare providers in the country. Increasing funding for graduate medical education while placing medical residents into high-demand specialties and medically underserved communities can combat limited healthcare supply. Furthermore, incorporating initiatives to diversify the curriculum of medical schools, representation in clinical trials, and research funding at the same time could improve minority health outcomes. As the United States grapples with a decreasing number of doctors, policymakers, healthcare institutions, and educational entities must address both the physician shortage and minority health disparities in rural communities through targeted interventions.

Keywords: doctor shortage, minorities, health disparities, underserved communities, rural communities, diversity, representation, healthcare, medical schools, clinical research, medical education, clinical trials