The year 2025 might sound far into the future, but that’s when Florida is expected to face a critical shortage of specialized physicians.
In a study released this month by IHS Global for the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida and the Teaching Hospital Council of Florida, Florida is projected to be short 7,000 specialized doctors in 10 years.
The study highlights the gap between the supply and demand of physicians spanning 19 specialties in areas such as psychiatry and general surgery throughout the state.
Timothy Goldfarb, the UF Health Shands executive vice president for regional and governmental affairs, said although Florida has enough medical schools to produce M.D.s or doctors of osteopathic medicine, there are not enough postgraduate positions to train them in specialties like pediatrics and general medicine.
As the population in Florida grows, the goal is to fund residencies to keep in-state doctors from choosing out-of-state programs, according to the study. It found that 81 percent of doctors who complete residency programs in Florida stay in the state to practice.
Alexis Clare, a UF pre-medical biology junior looking to enter the plastic surgery track, said she is looking to go outside of Florida for her postgraduate training.
“I think there’s more opportunities because Gainesville is tiny,” Clare, 20, said.
Gov. Rick Scott has included about $7.5 million annually in his proposed budget to fund programs, according to the study. Goldfarb said the funding has to be long term for doctors to want to complete programs that take up to seven years.
“So it has to be a sustainable commitment on the part of the state, and that’s what we’re trying to accomplish,” Goldfarb said.
As for UF Health Shands, Goldfarb said growing the residency programs should extend beyond the teaching hospital and into community hospitals, where doctors are likely to practice.
“We can help other communities grow and train these residents,” Goldfarb said.
The study may not be perfect, Goldfarb said, but the goal is not to be precise but to gather a general consensus on how to end the shortage.
“It’s to get everybody working on the same thing and in the same direction,” he said, “and I think thus far we’ve been successful with that so we’re very excited.”
[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 2/24/2015 under the headline “Study: FL could face specialized doctor shortage”]