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Doctor Shortage in Maine 

Finding a family doctor can be tough in Maine, especially if you live in a rural area.There are currently more than 100 open positions for primary care physicians in Maine, and now that more people are expected to become insured under health care reform legislation, the strain on the system is expected to get worse.”Even though health centers do a fabulous job working with a limited set of resources and budgets to meet that demand, the need is presently outweighing what we can provide.”Kevin Lewis is the Executive Director of the Maine Primary Care Association. Their mission is to support health centers across the state.One of greatest challenges, to find doctors to work in them. To find out why that’s so tough, we need to start at the beginning. In medical school. “I wanted to be a good physician and to be able to really bring healing to people’s lives.”it’s just always been a passion of mine””just wanting to help and bing a role model in society.”These four medical students at the University of New England, say they all want to practice in Maine someday. Some are considering primary care, but only 5% of medical students in the U.S. go into the field. That’s because there are obstacles.”I think the biggest one is the financial burden you leave medical school with.””Students graduate from medical school with significant debt, $100,000 to sometimes more than $200,000 debt. The biggest problem is primary care specialties don’t always pay as much as some of the sub specialties do.”Dr. Marc Hahn, Dean and Senior Vice President for Health Affairs at U.N.E. points out that physicians in certain specialties can make twice or three times as much as their counterparts in primary care.He would like to see more programs to help students who go into primary care deal with that debt. Like the program that 2nd year med student Katie Gassman is utilizing.”If I do my residency in Maine and come back and practice primary care in a rural setting, I get loan forgiveness.”It’s a state program though that is no longer available. But there is a federal program that is gaining strength.It’s called the National Health Service Corps, where medical professionals can get loan forgiveness by working for an underserved part of our population.”To give them a taste of how exciting being a primary care is and why they would want to value a career in primary care.”