The shortage of physicians in small communities 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. 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 3 percent of medical school matriculants plan to practice in a rural area."
But don’t tell that to the growing number of Mercy physicians in Ardmore. Last year, Mercy welcomed a dozen new doctors to its health ministry, and there are more on the way this year.
“The 12 doctors who set up practices in Ardmore last year have been warmly welcomed into our community, and their practices are already thriving,” said Mindy Burdick, president of Mercy Memorial Health Center in Ardmore. “They are a great compliment to the existing medical staff and to our long-time Ardmore physicians.”
That’s because there remains a very real need for quality health care in small communities, like those served by Mercy Memorial.
Oklahoma ranks among the highest in the nation for incidence of stroke, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. But for many small town 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 heart care, cancer, orthopedics and women’s services. Southern Oklahoma deserves the very best in health care and we believe residents shouldn’t have to travel far to get it.”
The Mercy Memorial Cancer Center is 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 new MD Anderson-trained medical oncologists – who provide the type of advanced care not commonly seen in smaller communities.
“I have had excellent oncology training at some of the top cancer hospitals in the world,” said Darda Bayraktar, MD, one of Mercy Memorial’s new medical oncologists, who lives and practices in Ardmore with his wife, Soley, also a medical oncologist. “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 Memorial’s 12 new providers along with four more slated to begin in 2012 give it a medical staff of nearly 100. In addition to medical oncology, these doctors practice in the areas of family medicine, internal medicine, cardiology, obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN) 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 is the eighth largest Catholic health care system in the U.S. and serves more than 3 million people annually. Mercy includes 31 hospitals, more than 200 outpatient facilities, 38,000 co-workers and 1,500 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.