Tuesday, September 30, 2014

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Harlem Health Center Works to Meet Need for Family Health Doctors

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The federal government is pumping money into programs aimed at training more primary care physicians, an effort to counteract what is a growing doctor shortage across the country. One of the few family medicine training programs in the city received one of the largest grants. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.

Dr. Bamidele Olatunbosun is a second year resident at The Institute for Family Health in Harlem.

It's one of 60 teaching health centers in the United States receiving money through the Affordable Care Act, aimed at getting more primary care doctors trained to practice in community-based settings.

"It's an under-served area, like the neighborhoods I grew up in. It reflects a lot of the values and my upbringing as well," says Olatunbosun.

President of the Institute, Dr. Neil Calman says the goal is to train doctors like Olantunbosun—raised in Brownsville, Brooklyn—who are more likely to stay and practice primary care in the city's under-served communities.

The Harlem center received $4.8 million to do just that. It's Hudson Valley location received another $1.8 million.

"The big academic medical centers have been totally focused on training specialists," Calman says. "To be able to treat folks in their own communities, they need to start training primary care physicians, because there just aren’t enough."

The Institute has partnered with Mount Sinai Hospital.

Doctors here are trained in family medicine, a specialty that, with the help of the Affordable Care Act, has grown in relevance.

"A lot of people didn’t know what family medicine is. They don't realize I can see them, I can also see their mom, I can see their child," Olatunbosun says.

"When people have access to that kind of care, they go to the emergency room less, they get hospitalized less, and their healthcare costs are reduced," Calman says.

The Harlem facility has one of only three family medicine residency training programs in all of Manhattan. There are a total of nine throughout the five boroughs.

Calman says more teaching centers should to be established to meet the growing need; the Institute is already having trouble keeping up with the demand.

"We could be building facilities every single day in all parts of the city and they would all be full," Calman says. "We're already out of space in a facility that's only been open for 15 months."

As Congress continues to argue over the merits of the ACA, though, it's unclear whether dedicated funding for these training programs will continue past 2015.

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