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Report: As Med School Enrollment Grows, Residency Slots Lag

Texas medical schools have increased their enrollment by roughly 30 percent in the last decade to help meet the state's demand for doctors. But the number of medical residency positions available in Texas is not keeping pace.

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Responding to calls to meet the state’s physician shortage, Texas medical schools have increased their enrollment by roughly 30 percent in the last decade. But the slots available for students to complete their medical residencies in Texas are not keeping pace, according to a new report from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

The report — commissioned by lawmakers in the last legislative session, and going before the coordinating board for approval tomorrow — found that without an increase in the number of first-year residency positions, at least 63 graduates of Texas medical schools will not be able to enter a Texas residency program in 2014. By 2016, the shortfall will nearly triple to 180. Research shows that if Texas medical students leave the state for their residency, they’re far less likely to return, meaning the state’s investment in their first four years of medical education — a total of $168,000 per student — “will not benefit the state.” 

According to the report, in 2011, Texas had more than 550 residency programs, offering a combined 6,788 residency slots. By 2014, Texas will need 220 more residency positions in order to have one for every Texas medical school graduate.  

Despite some federal funding and limited state financing, the bulk of the cost for training these students — estimated at $150,000 per student per year — falls to the residency programs, many of which are cash-strapped themselves.

The report recommends that the Legislature provide an additional $11.7 million in funding in the 2014-15 biennium to support “10 percent of the cost for new first-year entering residency training positions” — but only if funding is available. Considering Gov. Rick Perry’s vow to further curb state spending, finding money for residency slots isn’t likely to be a priority. 

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