CHICAGO — As part of its commitment to eliminating inequities and improving access to care for historically marginalized communities across the nation, the American Medical Association (AMA) today bolstered policy aimed at addressing the health needs of rural populations—enhancing access to care through educational strategies for rural physician workforce expansion.

Research shows that rural communities experience significant health inequities due to structural factors, such as limited access to primary and specialty physician care. While the current supply of rural physicians has not yet matched the demand for care, investments to increase medical students’ commitment and exposure to rural medicine can help meet this need. 

“For the nearly 60 million people who live in rural communities across America, persistent inequities continue to place barriers on access to medical care—resulting in devastatingly higher rates of mortality and preventable hospitalizations for this patient population,” said AMA Board of Trustees Member Scott Ferguson, M.D. “There is a clear, urgent need for more physicians to serve in rural America to help close existing gaps in patient care. The AMA is dedicated to addressing the root causes of health inequities for the rural patient population, and this policy is one step closer to removing those obstacles to care and achieving optimal health for all.”

The updated policy focuses on multifaceted educational strategies to help strengthen the rural physician workforce, recommending measures to encourage the pursuit of and exposure to rural training opportunities that reach patients in the greatest need of access to care. Under the expanded policy, the AMA will continue to support long-term solutions to address this critical issue, including:

  • Encouraging Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) review committees to consider adding exposure to rural medicine as appropriate, encourage the development of rural program tracks in training programs, and increase physician awareness of the conditions that pose challenges and lack of resources in rural areas
  • Supporting the use of additional virtual educational content to help enhance smaller training programs
  • Monitoring the 2020 U.S. Census report to assess the impact of physician supply and patient demand in rural communities
  • Working to augment the impact of initiatives to address rural physician workforce shortages
  • Undertaking a study of structural urbanism, federal payment policies, and the impact on rural workforce disparities

An AMA Council on Medical Education report associated with the policy also acknowledges diverse recruitment efforts explicitly targeting students from rural areas and efforts to decrease rural hospital closures as additional interventions to help improve rural health outcomes.

Along with numerous existing policies on the topic of rural health, the AMA continues work to analyze the changing physician workforce landscape and identify ways to expand career pathways for physicians to practice in rural settings. Since 2013, the AMA’s Accelerating Change in Medical Consortium has engaged medical schools across the country to help improve care specific to the needs of rural and remote communities. In addition, the 2021 Medical Justice in Advocacy Fellowship created by the AMA and the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine empowers physician-led advocacy efforts to advance health equity and improve the health and wellbeing of historically marginalized patients and communities.

Media Contact:

Cristina Mutchler

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About the American Medical Association

The American Medical Association is the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care. As the only medical association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice to all key players in health care.  The AMA leverages its strength by removing the obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises and, driving the future of medicine to tackle the biggest challenges in health care.

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