Program aims to attract doctors to rural Maine towns

Program aims to attract doctors to rural Maine towns

NORWAY (WGME) -- Maine has one of the oldest populations in the nation and the population is aging. This trend is highlighting another problem in the state: a shortage of doctors.

With huge college and medical school debt, it's tough to attract physicians to small, rural areas, which may not pay as well.

Ashley Jean is just about to graduate from medical school. As a med student at Tufts, she is part of the Maine Track Program at Maine Medical Center.

As part of her training, she spent time in the rural Maine town of Norway.

The lack of doctors in small towns is becoming a big problem for Maine.

The Maine Track Program hopes that by immersing third year med students in small town medicine for a semester, they'll get a taste of what makes rural practice special.

Dr. Gregory Hardy has been an obstetrician/gynecologist for more than 20 years in Norway. But Dr. Hardy says technology makes it easy to consult with a specialist if needed and patients can always be transferred to a bigger hospital if necessary.

He says patients deserve to stay right where they are for their routine medical needs.

Jean is considering it. Getting med students like her to commit to stay in Maine is the goal of the Maine Track Program.

Since it started in 2009, 131 med students have graduated from the program. The most recent Maine Track Survey is of the class of 2013, those students finishing up their residencies this year.

It shows that 90 percent of them want to stay and practice medicine in Maine.

The Maine Track class of 2013 is just finishing up their residency programs. So far, seven students have already signed on to practice with physician groups in Maine.

The state is also trying to attract doctors to rural areas through legislation.

In 2014, the legislature passed a law to grant tax credits to primary care physicians who practice in rural areas of the state.

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