The looming physician shortage in Louisiana reminds me of the premise behind the 1990s television show “Northern Exposure.”

“Northern Exposure” featured a young doctor duped into setting up practice in the wilds of Alaska. In a nutshell, the doctor failed to read the fine print for the scholarship that put him through medical school and found himself assigned to a rural Alaskan town desperately in need of a physician.

Now I’m not suggesting that we dupe medical students into treating the flu and giving booster shots in Louisiana’s villages.

What I am suggesting is that we need to jumpstart the conversation on opening a medical school in Lafayette. I wrote a column, “Louisiana Needs A Med School In Lafayette,” about this issue last year (http://tinyurl.com/pp2pxaq). We need to pick up those threads of conversation, and we need to do it without delay.

Want job security? Go to medical school and become a primary care physician. Want to experience frustration? Try getting an appointment with a primary care physician in the near future.

As a nation, we’re simply not graduating enough doctors. The shortage is only going to get worse with the Affordable Care Act expanding access to health care.

By 2025, the physician shortfall in the U.S. will range from 46,100 to 90,400. I didn’t come up with those numbers. The Association of American Medical Colleges did in a report (http://tinyurl.com/nco9qc7) earlier this year.

Do you know what that shortfall means to you? If you’re approaching 50, it means a lot. You need regular checkups to ensure you’re around to enjoy your grandchildren and your golden years. At the same time, too many doctors in Louisiana are preparing for their own retirements. They won’t be around to make sure that cold doesn’t turn into pneumonia or to check your blood pressure.

We have three fine medical schools in Louisiana. Two are in New Orleans. The third is in Shreveport.

Contact:
Michelle Millhollon
(225) 342-0012
mmillhollon@treasury.state.la.us