Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Medical School Graduates Could Go Directly to Patient Care under New Law

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Medical School Graduates Could Go Directly to Patient Care under New Law

Article excerpt

It could get easier to be a doctor in Missouri under a proposed law to add the classification of "assistant physician" to the state medical license.

Under the measure, an assistant physician would be a graduate of a four-year medical school program who has passed licensing exams but has not completed residency training. Residency programs are the three to seven years after medical school that doctors spend in primary and specialty clinical training.

Assistant physicians who are licensed by the state board of healing arts would be allowed to practice primary care and prescribe drugs in rural and underserved areas of the state. Their practice would be overseen by a physician who would be required to be on- site only for the first month.

The measure was approved by the Missouri Legislature. Gov. Jay Nixon has not said whether he will sign it.

"I question whether four years of medical school is enough to go out and take care of patients," said Rosemary Gibson, a board member of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. "People in rural and under-served areas deserve a fully trained, competent physician just like everyone else."

The first two years of medical school are typically classroom- based. The third and fourth years include clinical work with patients under direct supervision.

Medical school seniors then apply for residency programs at teaching hospitals, and most of them find a match. Just 583 of the 17,374 seniors at U.S. medical schools graduated without a residency position this year, according to the National Resident Matching Program.

Jeffrey Howell of the Missouri State Medical Association said the number of potential new doctors in Missouri could be much higher when graduates of foreign medical schools are included. As the only state in the country with the assistant physician designation, Missouri could attract medical school graduates looking to start practicing medicine, he said.

"Missouri truly has an opportunity to be a trailblazer on this type of licensure and solving the health care access problem," Howell said. …

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