Physician Shortage: USC School of Medicine Greenville starting accelerated program to help

USC School of Medicine Greenville creating accelerated program to address physician shortage
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 5:57 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Scheduling a doctor’s appointment has become more challenging. Reports show the U.S. is facing a major physician shortage and it may get worse. One upstate university is taking steps to curb the shortage.

Marissa Crum is a fourth-year medical student at USC School of Medicine in Greenville. She recently practiced infant delivery as part of her coursework. But she’s not studying to be an OBGYN. Instead, she wants to be a family physician.

“This is really important for addressing the physician shortage,” Crum said. “We have seen that a lot of people may have to drive a long distance before they can get to an OBGYN and so family physicians can help fill in that gap. Especially in rural areas or low resource hospitals.”

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation millions of Americans live in these health professional shortage areas. In Georgia it’s estimated about 60% of the physician need is not met, in North Carolina it is about 48% and in South Carolina it’s about 30%.

“I feel like it is going to be a lot of stress, but I think it’s important to step into this role,” Crum said.

Health professionals have seen this coming for decades. USC School of Medicine Greenville Biomedical Sciences Chair Kelly Quesnelle says the medical school was started eleven years ago for that reason.

“The School of Medicine Greenville was born out of that need to address the physician shortage,” Quesnelle said. “That is literally why we exist here in Greenville.”

The goal is to attract local interest and it worked.  Crum is from Greenville and was in high school when the program at USC started.

“I saw the program on the news and I thought this was somewhere I could see myself coming and doing,” Crum said.

Now leaders at USC are developing a primary care accelerated track so medical students can graduate in three years instead of four.

“It’s a little more rigorous in the sense that you will have more during those early years,” Quesnelle said.

Students will start their clerkship or clinical in year one instead of year three. This is when they practice medicine under the supervision of a doctor. Quesnelle says the school hopes the hands-on experience starting year one will excite students.

“It will also be motivating for students because sometimes when they are in the classroom it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Quesnelle said.

The program is expected to start in July of 2024. But they hope to start building interest now. Crum looks forward to her career and has this advice for other people thinking about joining the field.

“I think medicine is a really wonderful career,” Crum said. “You can make a big impact and make strong connections with patients. You just need to get an idea if that is something that you are interested in doing.”

Some lawmakers are also trying to help solve the physician shortage with a bill that would allow physician assistants to have more independent power. Senate Bill 553 would allow physician assistants to practice without the supervision of a doctor if they have at least 6,000 practicing hours. This is often accomplished in three years. But not everyone is in favor of the bill. Physicians for Patient Protection says physician assistants have less experience than doctors and therefore patients could be at higher risk. For more information on that bill view our story here.