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University of Missouri

Residency Shortage Limits Doctor Supply

As medical schools increase enrollments, number of residency spots need to grow.

The heads of CoxHealth and Mercy hospitals in Springfield, Mo., acknowledge that becoming a clinical campus for the MU School of Medicine will help them meet a growing doctor shortage in southwest Missouri.

Using a new $10 million annual state appropriation, the medical school will expand its enrollment from 96 to 128 students by fall 2016. The 32 additional students will complete two-year clinical rotations at the two Springfield hospitals. Their exposure to Springfield makes it more likely they’ll make their careers there.

If they can become practicing doctors, that is.

After two years of classroom work and two years of clinical rotations, new MDs must go through graduate medical education — residency — before they can practice independently. Residency positions are primarily funded by the federal government, which in 1997 froze the number of positions it supports. In 2013, more than 2,500 U.S.-educated MDs failed to land a residency, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC). Coupled with a growing, aging population, the result is an expected shortage of 91,500 physicians by 2020, the AAMC estimates.

“It’s a large problem that requires state- and national-level solutions,” says Weldon Webb, BA ’69, MA ’72, associate dean for the Springfield clinical campus implementation.