Federal Government Backs Texas Tech's Innovative Program to Address Primary Physician Shortage

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Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center has received a $1.5 million grant from the Bureau of Health Professions' Division of Medicine and Dentistry to help fund the Family Medicine Accelerated Track program, which will address the U.S. primary care physician shortage.

TTUHSC's FMAT program is the first three-year medical degree ever approved by the nationally recognized accrediting authority for medical education.

TTUHSC's FMAT program is the first three-year medical degree ever approved by the nationally recognized accrediting authority for medical education.

This is a program of national importance as we work to ensure that all Americans will have access to a primary care physician.

The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) School of Medicine’s Department of Family & Community Medicine received a $1,549,481 Predoctoral Training in Primary Care federal grant from the Bureau of Health Professions’ Division of Medicine and Dentistry for its innovative Family Medicine Accelerated Track (FMAT) program.

The Bureau of Health Professions’ Division of Medicine and Dentistry is an office of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This project was funded under Title VII, Section 747 legislation, whose programs focus on improving the nation’s access to well-trained primary care physicians by supporting primary care-focused, community-based residency training and developing pre-doctoral curricula.

In an effort to address the U.S. shortage of primary care physicians, TTUHSC School of Medicine established the first three-year medical degree ever approved by the nationally recognized accrediting authority for medical education. The new FMAT program will allow primary care students at the TTUHSC School of Medicine to complete their medical degree in three years at half of the cost of the standard four-year program.

“This is a program of national importance as we work to ensure that all Americans will have access to a primary care physician," said Steven Berk, M.D., dean of the TTUHSC School of Medicine. “Our hope is to encourage students to seek a career in family medicine and federal grants such as this will promote competency-based family medicine accelerated tracks as a consideration at other medical schools."

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), since 1997, U.S. medical school graduate matches in family medicine and general internal medicine programs have fallen by nearly 50 percent. A 2006 AAFP Workforce Study estimated that the U.S. will need approximately 39,000 more family physicians by 2020.

The five-year funded grant involves TTUHSC Department of Family & Community Medicine faculty members at all three medical school locations in Lubbock, Amarillo and the Permian Basin, and supports creative initiatives for the training of medical students and family medicine residents.

The Predoctoral Training in Primary Care grant will run through 2015. This project will develop, implement and assess the TTUHSC School of Medicine’s innovative three-year FMAT curriculum, which culminates in a medical degree and will prepare students for a standard three-year family medicine residency to be completed at a TTUHSC family medicine residency program in Lubbock, Amarillo or the Permian Basin.

Project director for the TTUHSC FMAT program Ron Cook, D.O., associate professor and vice chair of Family and Community Medicine, said the program has garnered support from other schools.

“There has been a lot of discussion about what we’re doing here at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center with the accelerated medical school,” Cook said. “Other universities have shown interest in starting a similar program.”

Cook added, “The money from the federal government will be used to support students in scholarships and grants so they can decrease the cost of their education through their tenure here at our school.”

The TTUHSC School of Medicine FMAT program was approved by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), the nationally recognized accrediting authority for medical education programs leading to the M.D. degree in U.S. and Canadian medical schools. The Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Medical Association sponsor the LCME.

The university will begin accepting students into the FMAT program in fall 2010 from the class of students currently completing their first year of medical school at the TTUHSC School of Medicine.

For TTUHSC breaking news and experts, follow @ttuhscnews on Twitter.

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Suzanna Cisneros Martinez
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