ARDMORE, Okla. – The shortage of physicians in rural areas of the United States is one of the few constants in today’s fast-changing world of health care. It’s a serious problem that grows more acute each year, undermining community health. And it appears we’re nowhere close to a remedy.
According to an article published by the University of Missouri School of Medicine, "the national physician shortage is growing worse, and that trend becomes more severe when you consider the maldistribution of physicians in rural areas compared to urban areas," said Kathleen Quinn, PhD, lead author of the article and director of MU's Rural Track Pipeline Program. "Our physician workforce will need to be reshaped to address this inequity because research shows only three percent of medical school matriculants plan to practice in a rural area."
This may be true for the rest of the nation, but don’t tell that to the growing number of physicians relocating to southern Oklahoma. In the past year, Mercy welcomed nearly a dozen new doctors to its health ministry in Ardmore, and there are more on the way.
“The 11 doctors who set up shop in Ardmore over the past months have been warmly welcomed into our community, and their practices are already thriving,” said Mindy Burdick, president of Mercy Hospital Ardmore. “They are a great compliment to the existing medical staff and to our long-time Ardmore physicians.”
The Sooner State ranks among the highest in the nation for incidence of stroke, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. But for many rural patients, receiving care for such conditions requires making a trip to the city. Not so in Ardmore.
“Mercy is committed to providing specialized care close to home,” said Burdick, “which is why we’ve established centers of excellence for community medicine, emergency medicine, post-acute care (home health/skilled nursing), cardiology and vascular services, cancer, orthopedics and women’s and children’s services. Southern Oklahoma deserves the very best in health care and we believe residents shouldn’t have to travel far to get it. Our next goal is to bring telemedicine into our community in order to provide specialty care that is not available to our area residents.”
The Mercy Cancer Centeris a perfect example. Opened in June 2011, the cancer center features technologies like a state-of-the-art Elekta Infinity linear accelerator and a PET/CT– the most advanced imaging system available. But more importantly, it’s staffed with a team of cancer specialists – including two medical oncologists – who provide the type of advanced care not commonly seen in smaller communities. Relocating from MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Drs. Darda and Soley Bayraktar made the decision to live and practice hematology/oncology in Ardmore.
“I have had excellent oncology training at some of the top cancer hospitals in the world,” said D. Bayraktar. “I’m happy to bring this training to southern Oklahoma, where I’ll deliver the best possible care to my patients.”
In other words, Mercy is going the distance so patients don’t have to.
“Our commitment has been to focus on the community’s needs, and then to provide the best in facilities and doctors to deliver the care,” said Burdick.
Mercy Hospital Ardmore’s new providers bring the medical staff total to nearly 170; including providers linked through telemedicine and aligned providers from within the Ardmore area. In addition to the specialty of medical hematology/oncology, the newly added physicians practice in the areas of family medicine, internal medicine, hospital medicine and emergency medicine.
“Mercy has a strong commitment to ensure our community has appropriate medical care,” said Burdick. “We will continue to evaluate the needs of our patients and continue to recruit quality physicians.”
Mercy Clinic is a physician-governed group of more than 1,700 medical providers across Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. In Oklahoma, Mercy Clinic is nearly 300 providers and 64 clinics statewide. With access to Mercy’s facilities, electronic health records, telemedicine and each other, Mercy Clinic providers can give their patients the best care available, regardless of the patient’s location. Patients of Mercy Clinic providers can connect to their own health records and health teams anywhere they connect to the Internet. For more information, visit www.mymercy.net.
Mercy is the sixth largest Catholic health care system in the U.S. and serves more than 3 million people annually. Mercy includes 31 hospitals, nearly 300 outpatient facilities, 38,000 co-workers and 1,700 integrated physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy also has outreach ministries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. For more about Mercy, visit www.mercy.net.