Trend: Lack of surgeons squeezes hospitals

In previous decades, medical schools put a cap on student enrollment, believing that controls imposed by managed care plans would reduce demand for physicians. Instead, what's happened is that such limitations have created a mushrooming physician shortage, particularly among primary care doctors and surgeons. While pay climbs rapidly over the first five years of practice, surgeons make less than other specialties in their first year, about $165,000--a big number by non-medical standards, but not huge for young physicians with $150,000 to $250,000 in educational debt.

The lack of surgeons is a particular problem for 54 million Americans who live in rural areas, where these specialists are retiring or leaving the community far more quickly than they can be replaced. Right now, only 9,334 of 211,908 physicians serving rural America are general surgeons, according to AMA data. To address these gaps, medical groups are recommending that schools expand the approximately 1,000 spots a year available for surgical training. They're also suggesting that medical schools look for students who want to practice in rural areas, rather than other standard qualifications such as their clinical research history.

To find out more about this trend:
- read this USA Today piece

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