Local health systems working to avoid severe doctor shortage

July 16, 2019 11:23 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- If you've tried to find a new doctor lately, you know it can be a monumental task.

There is a physician shortage nationwide and it's only expected to get worse as the average age of both doctors and the population gets older. It's hard to find a physician in the immediate Rochester area but it gets even more difficult when you get into some of our more rural areas.


It's a problem our health systems have recognized and are working to address.  

Dr. Ahmad Awada is an OB/GYN in the Ontario County Village of Clifton Springs.

"From the get-go, I wasn't expecting be in a small town," he tells News10NBC but he wasn't born in this country and he wanted to stay after medical school. "Because of visa changes, for me to get my green card, I had to relocate to a rural area, so that's how it started actually. I had to do it but then every day of the last three-four years of being in that smaller area, it's just grew on me and I liked it." 

J1 Visa Waivers are one way hospitals and health systems are trying to combat the nationwide doctor shortage that is crippling so many rural areas but our particular region has some draws that other areas in the country do not. It actually helps that many of the smaller practices and hospitals have been taken over by, or are affiliated with, larger networks.

"I think it does create a comfort that the whole system is connected and we want to keep people as close to home as we can for the care they need. If they need something that's more complex, we have the facilities available in our community to be able to get to them," says Dr. Eric Bieber, the president of Rochester Regional Health.  

Karol Marciano is in charge of recruiting for URMC's regional network.  She has found success in luring doctors here by promising the best of both worlds.

"We have physicians that sometimes will work two days in Rochester and two days in the rural areas and some doctors really like that because they get a broad spectrum of patients," she tells News10NBC.

URMC also has another powerful carrot. 

"The other thing we do for our physicians is they get a faculty appointment. That's big, that's really big," she says.

Obviously, most health systems have to offer money incentives too. Loan forgiveness is a must. Signing bonuses and moving expenses are typical too.  Dr. Bieber says selling the overall area to doctors, especially ones who are parents, also helps.  

"Whether it is downtown Rochester and great things going on like Jazz Fest, whether it's our suburban areas or whether it's a more rural area like Clifton Springs or any of the surrounding areas, these are great places to live, great places to raise a family," he tells News10NBC.  

Dr. Awarda says it's definitely something he considered when deciding to move to Clifton Springs from an even smaller town in Pennsylvania.

"My wife and my kid, they seem to like it too, so we're up for the challenge," he says.


Jennifer Lewke

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