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Virginia State government focuses on keeping doctors

The Roanoke Times, September 20, 2010

As the state faces an estimated shortage of 2,700 physicians by 2030, only 35 percent of graduates from Virginia's medical schools remain in Virginia to practice medicine, according to a new report issued by the Virginia Department of Health Professions.

"We are not the only ones in this position," Virginia Health and Human Resources Secretary William Hazel said in a news conference Thursday. "This is a national problem and we are competing to get these people to come in and to be there when we need them."

Most other states in the country, however, boast significantly higher retention rates, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges. Virginia ranks 31st for retaining its medical school graduates.

Fewer than one in four Virginia doctors has graduated from a Virginia school.

Virginia residency programs that offer graduate education to physicians also tend to have a hard time retaining their participants. Only 39 percent of physician residents remain in the state work force.

The news comes despite the state's recent emphasis on medical education to address a long-predicted physician shortfall. In 2008, the state allocated more than $50 million to support medical education.

Health officials also point to efforts in Blacksburg and Roanoke to open new medical schools poised to help meet future work force demands.

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