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Delta Health Alliance Works to Increase Physician Numbers in the Delta

Posted on: March 4, 2010

Stoneville, MS- Medical students are coming to the Delta, thanks to a program funded by the Delta Health Alliance. For the next six months, at least 20 medical students from the University of Mississippi Medical Center will be spending part of their academic semester practicing with doctors throughout the Delta. According to Karen Fox, president and CEO of the Delta Health Alliance, “The goal of this program is not only to temporarily help alleviate the physician shortage in the Delta, but also to encourage medical students to consider locating their practices in the Delta once they graduate.”

As part of the program, students from UMMC complete a one month course at one of the clinics in Belzoni, Vicksburg, Greenville, Greenwood, Charleston, and Cleveland that are partnering with the Delta Health Alliance and UMMC. According to Fox, “The students involved in our program receive hands on training by interacting with patients and medical staff, while at the same time helping with community service projects sponsored by local civic organizations. This enables them to gain educational and cultural experiences that will enhance their personal growth, as well as influence them to return and establish practices in the Delta.”

Dr. Jessica Bailey, director of medical education at UMMC and director of this project, says that the program is the most rewarding part of her job. “As course director for this program, I truly enjoy working with the fourth year medical students and residents involved in this program. The students and residents return from this experience with such enthusiasm about learning opportunities they have been given with the rural preceptors. On the other hand, the preceptors love having the students and residents present in their clinics, and as a result, they keep asking for us to send more students and residents.”

Justin Qualls, a fourth year medical student from Meridian who recently completed a course in Greenville, emphasizes the need for physicians. “It’s been an excellent opportunity to see what it’s like to be in a place where there simply aren’t enough physicians. The hospital is larger than I expected, and they are lost their only endocrinologist last month. They only have one pulmonologist. I’ve mostly been exposed to the great need for physicians in this part of the state. There is lots of transition there and it would be a great place for a physician to work.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Mississippi Delta has a critical shortage of primary medical care physicians, based on 1 physician for every 3,500 people as of January 2010. The Delta Health Alliance is working to increase these numbers by bringing medical students to the area and encouraging them to establish future practices in the Delta region.

The Delta Health Alliance is a nonprofit organization that supports community-based healthcare initiatives that target critical health and wellness issues in the Mississippi Delta. Located in Stoneville, MS, the Delta Health Alliance currently funds 35 community-based programs that are spread throughout the Delta region.